project communication channels

How to Communicate in a Project

We have been touting communication as one of the project manager skills that sets top performers out from the rest.  But how does that work exactly?  How do top project managers set themselves up for excellence in project communication skills?  One of the most important ways is to create a communication plan for each project followed by focusing on developing your skills.  Project and program managers who have a clear communication plan can focus on leadership and quality and less time closing gaps in broken channels.  Your communication framework is tantamount to success.  I don’t want to regurgitate information you can readily find on other sites, and there are many communication plans templates you can use but whatever plan you do use needs to be concise, available at the click of a button and agreed to by the project stakeholders, owners, and resources.

A Dynamic Framework

Communication plans or frameworks need to match the level of program or project.  Obviously, you need a plan that fits your organization’s culture and is aligned with the size of project or program you manage.  Templates can provide a good footprint for your plan, but don’t rely on one of those templates to have 100% covered.    So how do you build a dynamic framework for all your projects or allow yourself the flexibility between projects?  Start with a good base plan that you use as a shopping cart.  Maybe your project has many infrastructure components, doesn’t impact many users, and has only one deployment date.  Conversely, you could have a project that affects thousands of users, is cloud-based, and is deployed iteratively.  You describe each of those attributes of the project, and it helps you define how much of a plan you require.

Minimal Components of a Communication Plan

There are a few essential components that should be considered in project communication plans.  Each represents a section or table in your document (e-doc).  While you may think ad-hoc or recurring communications don’t need to be detailed, they help your new project team members on-board much faster!

  • Schedule – These are your commonly occurring manual or automated status reports, meetings, monthly executive briefs, and team aspects.  Remember that there are one-time communications that happen in every project such as a new team member reviewing project information.  Manage your team’s expectations when they join the project.  An expected communication schedule harnesses chaotic team members.
  • Delivery – Delivery has undoubtedly changed over the years.  Delivery mechanisms need to be defined in push or pull flows due to collaborative social tools where project members can be automatically added as a recipient of certain types of information.
  • Method – As in delivery, the process might be one project management collaborative tool or system, but your communication plan explains to all team members where that information can be found.
  • Authority – In many cases, the project manager is the authority of the information, but sometimes technical team members may be the authority.  You can compare this to the use of a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed) but in small projects, you don’t need the overkill of a RACI chart.  In large projects, a RACI chart would be included in the plan.
  • Audience – In smaller projects, the audience can easily be defined, but in large projects this needs the layers detailed.
  • Type – Is everything in an electronic collaborative form?  Probably most of it; but it helps for your new project team to understand how they will consume the information.

Project Size and Complexity

Size and complexity dictate the project communication strategy; not budget!  There are projects with small budgets who may impact thousands of users.  When you consider many small projects are executing at the same time, complexity grows.  It’s important for information technology projects to decide how they will communicate impact to those users.  Projects can be lumped into a program communication plan where managers of each project are in the feedback loop with the program manager.  Have you described that feedback loop?  Do members of your organization understand that size and complexity have nothing to do with project budget?

Keeping it Simple

There’s no need for overkill on communication plans, and often they can be a subset of the charter.  However, remember that of all skills a project manager needs to be hugely successful, communication is the pinnacle!  Use the infographic below to get an idea how to create a quick-pick communication plan generator!

communication plan template


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