To many, project managers, making a communications plan for your projects seems superfluous. We all know how to communicate with each other, and everyone on the project is likely already on the same page about using e-mails or a Slack channel to touch base on progress. How could having a predetermined communications plan – deliberately strategized with tracking metrics and all – transform your management process and serve to make your life easier as a PM?
If you take a moment to think about it, your communication strategy (or lack thereof) has probably already affected your projects detrimentally. If you were to ask all of your clients’ opinions of your e-mail correspondence, would all of them have glowing praise to offer? Likely not – some might find it inconvenient, inefficient, or otherwise bothersome, especially if you’re the odd one out of a group that normally meets together in person. To them, you may as well be communicating by snail mail. Being cognizant of how your communication strategy affects your projects is a consideration so often overlooked, you’ve probably never considered it. Let’s change that.
In this article, we’re going to explore the broader aspects of effective communication, and I’m going to give you a simple plan to create a sure-fire project management communications strategy which will help you become more effective as a PM, while “wowing” your clients in the process.
Think Outside of the Box
E-mails. Chat messages. Conference calls. Zoom meetings. Writing tickets. As a PM, this is your wheelhouse. If it works, don’t fix it – right? Wrong - limiting to these preferred methods misses the point of effective communication entirely, opening the door for any number of problems to arise.
The exchange of information between humans involves many individual components, each modifying the recipient’s understanding of the meaning. Written words in an email lack the inflection, cadence, emotion, and tone of spoken words. Spoken words lack the visible expressions and gestures when makes when explaining something. The lesser forms of communication, like written words in an e-mail or chat message, are cueless – that is, they lack an opportunity for the reader to infer greater meaning from the information. With written communication, what you see is what you get.
Consider the specific tendencies of every stakeholder and resource on your project – maybe your client isn’t great at specifying their needs over email, but could paint an exact picture of what they require with a dry-erase marker and a whiteboard. You’d be remiss to not make note of this and modify your strategy of communication with them; limiting your communication to e-mails is asking for frustration and inefficiency.
Communication is a constant and fluid element to consider in your projects. If one of your company officers is on vacation during a board meeting and misses key details of an interruption to your project’s progress, you have to be sure to follow-up with them and bring them up to speed. Otherwise, you will be blindsiding them when the issue is mentioned at the next meeting, and it could appear to them you’ve lost control of the situation. A piece of information given out of context can be misinterpreted, and the worst assumed. You have to ensure every stakeholder is apprised of context at every stage – keep everyone on the same page so surprises don’t happen.
In part two of this series, we’ll talk about how to organize and execute an effective communications plan.