Recently, I lost my voice for a few days. It made me realize how important it is to have effective, efficient, and effortless communication throughout a project. Because I couldn’t talk to my team and instead needed to write out my ideas, communicating what was on my mind felt a little cumbersome. Thankfully, we still had a good communication plan in place that dictated regular meetings for discussing project changes, so we weren’t hindered by my inability to hold a conversation. When I finally got my voice back a few days later, order was restored and we resumed our full speed ahead of pace without me scrambling for a whiteboard every five minutes.
Putting together a successful project communication plan provides a clearly defined pathway for how and when communication will occur. Just like when I lost my voice, if you can’t talk to your team and keep them up to date on the project, the work will suffer. Whether resources are squandered or changes become surprises, any lapse in communication can be quite harmful.
With a good project communication plan, you can avoid the surprises and extra work. I’ve pared it down to five steps to getting your plan off to a smooth start.
1. Define the Purpose and Approach
Like an executive summary, the Plan Purpose is the first item in the document. I would however, highly recommend creating it last, so that you can pull from the entire plan and make sure that you’ve hit all the high points. You’ll also want to make sure you address how the plan will be implemented. After all, it doesn’t matter how great things look on paper if you never actually use them in practice.
2. List Goals and Objectives
In a similar fashion to the Plan Purpose, the goals or objectives of a project communication plan might seem obvious: to foster better communication. Take a second to dive deeper into the plan and figure out if there is anything else you’re hoping accomplish.
Here are a few starting points:
- Promote awareness of the project inside the company or outside of it
- Increase employee acceptance or increase project traction company-wide
- Give an avenue for stakeholders to provide feedback
3. Research and Assign Roles
Within the project team, you’re going to have a variety of roles, plus all of the additional stakeholders that will be involved at some point or another. Make sure that everyone from the manager to the intern has a role within the plan, and that each person is aware of his/her responsibilities.
Some roles will have more responsibility than others. The project lead will be expected to contribute more through the course of the project than the project sponsor. On the other hand, each individual or group will be expected to provide the proper communication when it’s requested.
4. Determine Methods
The tools and methods you’ll be using can span a variety of mediums. Some messages will need to come in the form of presentations or meetings. Others can be accomplished using an email or text message. Put together a comprehensive list of all the different communication methods you’ll be using throughout the project. It is also worthwhile to include a few examples of appropriate times to use each method of communication.
While it might be quicker or easier for you to revert to a single form of communication for everything, bear in mind the your audience will vary, and the message needs to be tailored to the recipients.
Also, whenever possible, encourage methods which allow for feedback from your audience. This way, if they have constructive criticism, you can use their feedback to improve the project.
5. Pinpoint High Level Communications
Taking things a step further for important communication events, you must clearly outline the methods, frequency, and roles within the project communication plan. These can be internal status reports, staff meetings, project update presentations, or the kick-off. This way, you have an easy reference at a glance for how, what, and when you’ll be communicating.