The stakes are high: according to a 2007 PMI study, 28% of projects fail due to poor communication—the single most common cause. Data hoarding, ill-defined communication expectations, and sheer inertia all conspire against open communication channels. But if you hammer the communication basics, you’re contributing a vital ingredient to project success.
If you want to encourage communication, practice it yourself.
Lay out realistic channels, with your audience in mind . How well have you communicated with your team today/this week/month? Right-size your communications: don’t use the communications structure required for a shuttle mission for your migration to SharePoint 2010. Keep your stakeholders’ risk tolerance levels in mind. Lack of communication almost always aggravates risk.
Focus on available tools.
There’s a reason that Microsoft Excel is the world’s most popular software for documenting and managing project plans: it’s everywhere, and most everyone knows how to use it. Check your organization first for communication standards, and then broaden your search for communication formats and procedures that make sense for your project. Why reinvent the wheel? And, PMBOK provides a complete (at times excruciatingly so) roadmap for effective communications.
Find an appropriate cadence for communicating project information.
When do the c-level offices prefer their briefings? How much hand-tooling, and how much broadcasting, does your corporate culture want in its messaging? Build team consensus on how much documentation of communication is required.
Establish who communicates which information, and to whom.
Better internal communication propagates beyond your project, first to sponsors and external stakeholders, and then throughout your organization. A Role Report Matrix is a handy way to define responsibilities for communication to project stakeholders and media outlets.
Imposed solutions are often ignored/rebelled against.
Be willing to change communication methods midstream as your team gains traction, and management articulates or changes preferences. You could try inferring the right amount of touch for each audience. Better yet, ask.
Adherence to PMBOK principles adds to project clarity.
Staples like the project Org Chart, Risk Register, and Gantt should be public touchstones. And, don’t forget Lessons Learned as a function of effective communication. Both you and your organization will be smarter for future projects.
Lee J. Tarricone, PMP, is a project management consultant with BCforward. He currently manages projects for business process enhancement and web search optimization.
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