Project Management

6 Common Mistakes Made in Project Communication Plans

by Penny Kooy, July 11, 2016

Communication is key to keeping projects on time, within budget and in line with client expectations.

But communication about communication could be even more important.

Defining when and how communication occurs helps you keep your team on task and their work on target. A good project communication plan sets goals, clarifies roles and establishes expectations.

Here are six common mistakes made in project plans and ways to avoid them in your agency.

1) Saying too much

You may intend to improve collaboration by intricately detailing who can contact whom and when and how, but constricting communication can slow the flow of information. If a team member must stop to consider if their email is within the plan’s parameters, then you are delaying your project’s progress. A well-defined communication matrix documents acceptable contact without forcing team members to read the fine print. Simple works.

2) Saying too little

If everyone has a say, then no one has a say. Overlapping roles cause confusion, which prompts delays. Pull in team members who have the time and talent to complete your project, then assign tasks accordingly. Distinguish between roles like project sponsor, project lead and steering team member so that everyone knows what they should and shouldn’t do.

3) Lacking purpose

Pointing your team in the right direction requires you to have somewhere to point. Unfortunately, communication plans often fail to put forth a clear purpose for the project. Your team should know why you are embarking on the project and what your client hopes to achieve with its completion. Start by setting SMART goals, which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-related. Then, follow through with detailed expectations for deliverables and timelines, confirming that team members and stakeholders understand and agree.

4) Ignoring meetings

Meetings are notorious time-wasters. But they can also be incredibly efficient. Failing to plan for meetings is indeed planning to fail. Specify the frequency, purposes and terms of meetings in your project communication plan to prevent meeting too often or not enough, and to maximize the time provided. Differentiate between weekly status meetings; project plan status updates; management and resource updates; and task and activity planning sessions. Establish guidelines for each, such as who will be responsible for creating agendas and choosing action items.

5) Mishandling stakeholders

Your client may say they want to be “involved” but what does that really mean? Do they want daily updates or will a weekly summary suffice? Or, how about your agency’s owner? Do they - or should they - know how a project is coming along? Perhaps to assess its profitability or smooth the client relationship? Respect each stakeholders’ communication requirements by accommodating their preferred frequency and method for communication.

6) No Plan B

Even the best-planned projects can go amuck. How will you get yours back on track if it does? Avoid delays by including a risk management strategy in your project communication plan. Create contingency plans for overcoming such potential obstacles as scope changes, ensuring that team members and stakeholders know how challenges will be handled. Apprise them of possible problems in advance as well, so that no one is surprised should a situation arise.

Avoid these mistakes and increase your chances of success by downloading our project communication plan template. Your communication about communication will be clear and concise if you do.  

What mistakes have you seen with project communication plans? And how have you overcome them?

Project Communication Plan Template

Subscribe to the Workamajig blog