Communication: The Lifeblood of a Project

Communication is the single most important, binding element in a project. It can single handedly help avoid disaster or lead to a complete collapse of an otherwise healthy project. As Ann Drinkwater explains in this article, having a communication plan for each and every project is an important first (and continuous) step to make sure nobody is left wondering what’s going on. A communication shares many similarities with a project plan, but with one notable exception: a communication plan must account for the information needed, when it’s needed, and who it will be needed by. Drinkwater goes on to explain: There are some definite musts for the communication plan. The communication plan should be scalable and must be prepared based on the scale and depth of the project. Just as you wouldn’t send out a SWAT team to catch a shoplifter, you wouldn’t prepare an elaborate communication plan for a straightforward project that involves only a small group. Understanding the needs of stakeholders and developing an appropriate plan for communicating progress-information, successes, risks, and changes-is paramount. The operative word when creating the plan document is “appropriate.” Be careful not to over-communicate irrelevant information, otherwise, stakeholders and the project team may become overwhelmed with information and disregard relevant future information. Another aspect is stakeholder management: once you collect information and analyze how it impacts the project, you need to discuss relevant findings with you stakeholders. This communication works two ways: you’re making sure that they understand what’s going on, and they can make sure you understand what they want you to do as a result. This blends into expectation management, which is an important part of the overall process of project management.
The article ends by discussing delivery method: sometimes and email isn’t as appropriate as a phone call—and sometimes a phone call isn’t as good as a meeting. The urgency of the information, along with the preferred mode of communication expressed by your stakeholders, needs to be considered.

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