Project managers use communication to lead and to motivate their team, to delegate responsibility to all involved in the project, and to report back to project sponsors and all stakeholders. Communication is the majority of a project manager’s job, so every project manager must learn how to communicate successfully.
Develop your communication plan
Just like every other aspect of your project, you must make a communication plan. However, it cannot be a one-size-fits-all. Communication plans must be adapted to each of your different stakeholders because they encompass different: audiences, communication formats and timing, and impacts on the project. Each of these factors must be considered in your plan.
Therefore, creating a plan for stakeholders could include a number of tools. The first is a grid that groups stakeholders across a number of characteristics like format, their ranking vis-a-vis other stakeholders, or their level of involvement in the project. Once you put all of your stakeholders into a grid, you could then develop a specific communications plan for each group based on the degree of management each requires.
A second tool is to create a chart entitled RACI which means Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. Set up a table that lists out every task to be done and each of the stakeholders. Assign each task and action to a stakeholder communicate the chart so that every task is covered.
Once you have your plan, you need to give some thought to the different types of communications you will need. It is useful to think about the three main stakeholder groups as communication streams.
There are two streams of communication that project managers have to master: one to senior management, a second to their team, and a third to project sponsors. Each stream requires different tasks, tools and skills to make a project run smoothly.
Communicating to senior management
The first is the communication stream to senior management. This is a crucial area of communication because it will help to solidify their support for the project and therefore enforce the changes that the project will make, shoring up the probability of success.
All communications with senior management will surround the project ideas and o remind them of the importance of the project and progress being made. Expect to send them many status reports, particularly as the project outlines shift and change.
Communicating to and with your team
The second is the stream of communication with your team, which can begin even before the full team is in place. By staring early, you will ensure that all team members are on your list and they can help to participate in building the initial communications plan. It is that communications plan which will be used as the basis for project communications, and will evolve as the project moves forward.
Regular communication will include updates on the project as well as the information necessary for them to meet their goals. You will to assign work, along with clear and precise expectations of when each task is to be completed. As well, your team needs feedback on how they are doing, the team and project as whole, and for motivation. Without simple and clear instructions, the project can quickly go off track.
Studies show that one out of every five projects fails because of ineffective communications. By applying these effective communication skills, you can avoid becoming a statistic, too.