Communication in business is always important, but communication during the planning and implementation of a project you have just accepted as a project manager is ultimately what will determine if you keep your job or not. If you cannot effectively communicate, you may want to find another profession. Like sales.
First, let’s talk about creating the communications plan as part of the planning process. The ultimate goal of this step is to take your list of stakeholders which should include your team and the stakeholder management strategy that defines who needs to know what and the timing of those messages and create a Communications Management Plan. This component of your overall project strategy will provide you and your team with guidance on what information needs to be communicated to whom, the timing of those messages, and how the information will be delivered. If it sounds simple, it really is.
As the project manager, you need to realize that it is your responsibility to keep the lines of communication open to everyone. Let’s take an example of a situation that I was recently involved in. I was implementing a curriculum and culture change within a school district in the Midwest. For a particular work package, our team had set the communication parameters to include five total members of the team. After we began working on this particular package, three of our team members began communicating on some issues that came up related to the work package and did not include the remaining two team members in the discussion.
This presented several problems. First, it started a culture of distrust among the team members. The rift that was created hurt the ability of the team to complete this work package on time. The deliverable was late and as a result, made it so we were required to speed up the dependent work package. As the project manager, once I found out about this problem, I got everyone on the phone and we fixed the issue. Unfortunately, some of the feelings of hurt remained.
Second, the three individuals who started working in their own direction outside of the project scope were bent out of shape because they felt they had come up with a better solution to one of the challenges that the project solved. Because their ideas fell outside of the project scope, we drew up an additional document that detailed their ideas and put it off until we completed the project that was currently in place. The solution that was included in the original work package was good and the new solution proposed by the team of three was good. Since the two solutions were equal, we selected the solution that was outlined in the original work package.
Creating the communications plan is the easy part of this process. Making sure your team continues to adhere to the structure provided by it is what will lead you often to banging your head against the wall.