Project Communications – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Part 2 of 3)

FootprintIn part 1 of this blog, we talked about not all communication events were pushed out to the project stakeholders.  Let’s look at some different types of communications interventions that represent the information, ideas, topics and subject matter that flow to and from the stakeholders through formal communication channels.

Information about the Project:  One type of communication is the information associated with the project.  Team members and other stakeholders understand more about the project; it’s status and how it affects them.  This type of communication ensures stakeholders feel they are kept up-to-date and how it will affect them and their project team.  In some projects where there are large groups of being managed by the project (i.e., software development teams, engineering teams, researchers, etc.) the importance for them to collaborate with near “real time” information is critical to their productivity.  Also, the importance to have a single voice for project information reduces flow from unofficial or erroneous sources.
Information that is Strategic:  Stakeholders want to understand how the benefits of the project to their company, organization or other affiliation.  Why was the project started?  What was the business case?  This is critical for key stakeholders of the project.  Executive sponsorship must be nurtured.  We can all reflect on projects that required a long process to rebuild support from key sponsors.
Information relating to Organization:  Key to many stakeholders is how this project affects their roles, relationships, work groups and even future jobs.  We have seen the “rumor mill” churn when this communication is not effective.  Conflicting statements will create confusion and chaos.  Your stakeholder analysis should identify these gaps allowing you to identify a proactive communications solution.
Another way to address the projects impact to an organization is to utilize the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3).  This model looks at three interlocking elements covering
1.    Knowledge about organizational project management.
2.    Perform an Assessment of the current state of project maturity.
3.    A path for Improvement to increase project management maturity.
Information about Behavior:  When projects impact change in organization or work groups, the communications need to address how different organizations work together to ensure a successful project.
Information at a personal level:  All stakeholders are interested in “what’s in it for me.”  How will they benefit from the project and how to reinforce a positive behavior?  Don’t rely only on your perceptions; collect data to establish what people really feel about the project and its impact on themselves.  You can then better understand what communications strategy to deploy.
Information addressing professional development:  Being able to ensure all stakeholders have the necessary training to accept the changes to their work processes.  This would include planning and administration of training.
Information regarding the functionality or product impacts by the project.  This happens all of the time (i.e., There is bad communications between the sales team, development team and the project team).  Sometimes this single communication element becomes one of the primary causes for projects to fall behind schedule.
This is not a definitive list but I wanted to reflect the potential scope of communications. 

Are their additional categories of communications that are important unique to your projects?
For this reason, going into a new project requires a lot of thought and planning before the first communication is developed and sent.  Let’s talk a little more about how to go about doing a stakeholder analysis and communications impact on the project plan.
One of the first planning activities should be to create a list of the different stakeholder groups.  A good place to start is identifying the natural working groups of stakeholders associated with the project.  You can then take the data from this and create a Stakeholder Matrix.  I would even do this for projects of any size.  It can be an eye-opener.  At a minimum, every communications plan should have a clear picture of their individual stakeholder needs.
From this information, you can create a simple stakeholder matrix including project teams, customers, users and others involved or impacted by the project.

Stakeholder Groups Names Stakeholder Involvement Stakeholder Expectations Stakeholder
Project Leadership  
Project Teams  
Others impacted by the project  

Once stakeholders are identified, you can identify what type of information will be needed to collect and analyze for each of the different groups of stakeholders.  Additionally, based on the impact of your project, you might need to know what communication vehicles they presently have/use, the physical location of the stakeholders, their organizational structure, what processes and procedures they use being impacted by the project, and behavioral needs.  Every project has different and unique stakeholder requirements: what other requirements have you identified on your projects?  You can build these into your stakeholder requirements matrix.
Please share any examples of how ineffective communications have caused setbacks in projects you have participated in.  Also, identify a solution that could have been implemented to prevent this problem from happening.
In addition to responding to this blog: you can also contact me directly at to discuss your specific project communications related questions or needs you might have, or visit my new website .


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