Using a Project Management Approach to Communication

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Using a Project Management Approach to Communication

December 10, 2014

Communication is a crucial part of effective organizations and the key elements to consider are Who, What, When, Why, and How. If you’re struggling to establish an effective communication flow within your company, maybe you should consider adopting a project management communication framework.

Communication Complexity

In order to be successful, projects need a consistent flow of clear communication and cross-functional collaboration. Projects have different audience members who are looking for varying levels of information, at different times, via multiple delivery methods.

To address this communication complexity, project management best practices include a framework to deliver the right level of information, to the right people, when they need it.

Streamline Communication

Whether you’re managing a set of tasks grouped together to form a small project or you’re managing a larger project, you need to establish a process to keep everyone in the loop in progress.

At a minimum, there are two levels of communication required, the people doing the work, and the people who assigned the work. As the project size gets bigger, so do the levels of communication required.

On a mid-size project and above, you will want to have a three-tier system:

The Project Team

The Project Team has tactical level ownership of delivery results. They manage the greatest level of detail and are responsible for providing a status update to the Operating Team, and ensuring they’re kept in the loop on any issues or challenges.

At this level, the closest level of collaboration is required because it’s the biggest group of resources involved. In order for this team to be successful, they will need a central collaboration tool that provides visibility to the team on all activity.

This central hub of activity is a living-breathing source of all information, and can be referenced at any point during the project to review the current status of activities.

The Operating Team

The Operating Team is the day-to-day middle managers that oversee the team’s delivery the work. They are the first escalation point for any issues, and determine whether an issue needs to be escalated to the Steering Committee.

This team is a little smaller and needs a summary of the achievements and open action items, as well as a summary of the issues. This information can be pulled from the central hub of activity and summarized for this team’s consumption.

Executive Sponsors (or Steering Committee)

The Executive Sponsors are upper management who do not have a lot of time to read task lists or detailed action items. They want to see the status of projects at a high level, and primarily want to manage by exception.

They need periodic confirmation that everything is on track but don’t need to see the detail behind this. It’s important to let them know about any challenges or issues you’ve encountered, and the solutions you propose to address them.

Communication Model

To increase the efficiency of the flow of company communication, ask your teams to audit their content before it’s communicated, by using this simple 5-step review process:

Who am I communicating to? (This help to determine if the messaging and level of detail appropriate to the audience)

What am I communicating? (By being clear about what your message is, it’ll make it easier to deliver and be understood)

When am I communicating? (This will drive how frequently you’re communicating, but also what stage in the process you should be communicating)

Why am I communicating? (Are you just providing a status update or are you requesting input or direction? Be clear about what you want and you’re more likely to get it)

How am I communicating? (e.g. Are you scheduling meetings when an email would be a better form of communication?)

By taking the time to review these essential communication elements, it will streamline the flow of communication and increase the efficiency of the entire organization.

Our contributing author is Jay Artale, a Global Operations Project Lead and Corporate Management Consultant. Her business expertise is Change Management, Performance KPIs, Team Collaboration and Employee Engagement.

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