A simple communications planning guide for project managers
A 2013 Project Management Institute (PMI) report detailing the essential role of communication in project management found that “ineffective communications are the primary contributor to project failure one third of the time, and had a negative impact on project success more than half the time.” The most effective project managers never neglect communication. They prioritise it, setting out a project communication plan that ensures critical information is shared:
- When it is needed
- With whom it is needed
- In a way it is best communicated
What should a project communication plan include?
When designing a project communication plan, the project manager should include:
- The goals of the plan
- Stakeholder information
- Details of the information that must be shared with project stakeholders
- Methods of communication to be used
- Frequency of communications
The project communication plan enables project stakeholders to reference it, set their communication expectations, and enables stakeholders to provide feedback appropriately. It should also help project meetings to be more effective and productive.
Here’s how to write an effective project communication plan in six steps.
1. Select your format
All project managers have their preferred formats for writing their project communication plan. Whether this is on a Word document, Excel spreadsheet, a project communication plan template, or some other method, it is essential that the plan can be shared easily. It should also enable feedback to be made and captured, and the project team and other project stakeholders to access and reference.
2. Set your communication goals
Set your communication goals and write them down. For example, this may be to keep project stakeholders informed, updating them on progress and customer requests. It is also likely to include the need to remain updated about project issues and risk management.
3. Identify your project stakeholders
You are likely to have already identified the project stakeholders, but when it comes to communicating with them you must ensure you identify the level of interest of each stakeholder. You should identify which of these stakeholders needs to be communicated to throughout the project, and which requires less communication.
4. Determine how you will communicate
Stakeholders will have their own preferred methods of communication. Some may prefer email, while others are avid Messenger users. Others respond to videos.
You must ensure that your communication is received and understood. As well as detailing who will receive communications, your project communication plan should also detail how communications will be made with the project’s stakeholders. Methods you might use include:
- Meeting summaries
- Status reports
- Weekly check-ins
- Collaborative apps
- A project blog
The method you choose may also depend on the type of information you are sending, and whether it is time-critical.
5. Decide on the frequency of communications
Now, list out what communication you will be making and how often it needs to be made. For example, you may send a project update by email once a week, on a Monday. This may include links to other relevant information. You may have a weekly project status update meeting with team managers on a Friday. A full team meeting may be held at the end of each project milestone.
As well as putting this information on your project communication plan, you should also ensure that it is scheduled in project stakeholders’ calendars – and, of course, your own.
6. Decide who communicates
While most project communication is the responsibility of the project manager, some updates may need to be made by specific project stakeholders, project teams, or the customer. You should identify on the plan which communication is to be made by whom.
Communication is the lifeblood of project management. Without a plan, you can never be sure that information flow is successful. Following these six steps will help you to write an effective project communication plan that ensures the right information is shared with the right people at the right time.
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