Project Management

5 Signs It's Time to Revise Your Project Communication Plan

by David Arnold, May 10, 2016

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Let’s be real. If you’ve been around the industry for some time, you know that projects can fail. And while proper planning and succinct scheduling can positively impact the success rate of many projects, it’s best to approach project management with a critical eye. Luckily, many major mishaps can be avoided by learning from the mistakes of others.

To help avoid unnecessary stress—and potential project disasters—we’ll review five common warning signs that indicate it’s time to revise your project communication plan

Sign # 1: Your Project’s Purpose is Undefined

While PMs should undoubtedly have a concise communication plan in place while a project is ongoing, it’s equally important to define the purposes, goals, and expectations before a project even begin. Before you even develop a schedule, your team should have an understanding of a project’s proposed trajectory, the work breakdown structure, the course of action for achieving goals, and an idea of project uncertainties.

Be sure to communicate with your team exactly why the project is important before even starting the scheduling process.

Sign # 2: You’re Unsure of the Client’s Requirements

While an effective project communication plan provides internal teams with direction, it’s equally important to be aware of external influencers. Even if you’re confident in your project’s vision, it’s crucial to include finalized client requirements in your plan. Consider revising your plan if you do not have an explicit statement of requirements from the client. Without them, you run the risk of unnecessary scope change or changes.

Sign #3: You’re Overly Influenced By External Factors

At some point in your managerial journey, you’ve probably heard the adage of underpromise and overdeliver. You’ve probably even made unreasonable promises at one time. Don’t worry—it’s human nature. However, there’s a fine line between setting high expectations and promising unrealistic goals. And far too often, external influencers cajole PMs into making promises that they know are impractical.

While it’s important to meet your stakeholder and project requirements, it’s also crucial to evaluate the risks of deadlines. As hard as it may be, try to ignore pushy, persistent external factors. Rushing a project can lead to uninspired, sloppy work. Pick your battles—but be realistic and honest with your team, your stakeholders, and yourself.

Sign #4: Your Estimates Are Baseless

A huge factor in establishing an effective communication plan is understanding your team’s abilities, talents, and weaknesses. If you’re overly idealistic, or downright uninformed, about their capacity to handle a project, not only is it going to be difficult to set realistic deadlines, it may be time to revise your communication plan.

Make sure you meet with your team to understand team member’s needs and expectations. Utilize project management software to pull reports and gauge past productivity. These measurements can help set expectations and estimates that are rooted in fact.

Sign #5: Your Plan Doesn’t Account for Risk Management

As we’ve blogged about before, risk is real and dangerous. Establishing and maintaining risk management from the get-go is paramount to a project’s success. And if your communication plan does not contain a risk management strategy, it may be time to revise it.

While admittedly time-consuming, preparing a risk management strategy is a fairly simple process. First, consider the risks. As you look through your project schedule, identify any possible conflicts, scope changes, and gold plating. Next, create contingency plans to respond to and offset any negative situations. By constantly identifying and evaluating your project’s current situation, you’re mitigating the occurrence of possible risks.

Project Communication Plan Template

About The Author

David studied at the Northern AZ University & spent years working with agencies like J. Walter Thompson and McCann-Erickson and Fortune 100 companies in Tokyo.

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