Since I already wrote about stakeholder management I thought I should write a follow up post on a related topic. While identifying stakeholders is crucial, that’s really only the first step. How you engage with those stakeholders at the beginning, and throughout the project will be crucial for your projects success. It’s easy to overlook the communication plan, especially for smaller projects with tight teams, but taking a moment to create one will be worth it. It will make work easier down the line and it will aid in catching up new team members.
Much like the stakeholder registry, I suggest using a spreadsheet for tracking your communication plan. There are seven key pieces of information you will want to include in the plan. If done shortly after the stakeholder analysis, your plan will be easy to complete.
- Audience: Who is this message for? You will want to be sure to include as individuals (or as a part of a group) all of the key stakeholders you identified. It is also worth considering other groups or how groups might overlap and adding rows for them. Examples might include: Dean of Library, Department Heads, Project Team, and External Stakeholders. Be sure to also consider what your organization wide communications, such as the library or university, will look like. These might be the only messages about your project some people get or read.
- Vehicle: What are the communication methods being used? Email and meetings are the most common ways but think about others, especially informal ones. A brown bag lunch event might be a great way to generate staff interest in a project. Also consider any reports or status updates you might be giving.
- Frequency: How often will the communication occur? Team meetings and status reports will be regularly scheduled for a reason, so do the same for things like all staff status updates to keep yourself on task.
- Medium: Closely tied to vehicle, what form will the communication take? Is it verbal (as in a meeting) or a hard copy that is distributed to everyone?
- Source: Who is providing the information? We often end up with several sources of information about a project so tracking which should be included in what forms is important.
- Sender: Who is delivering the message? This usually ends up being the project manager but try to include others, especially with different communication styles, to get the message out.
- Sensitivities: Does this audience have any particular sensitivities? This might be topics or parts of the project they either care about or don’t want to hear at all. This is a great place to also capture notes about communication style. There are people that like a simple email and others that like a quick phone call. Using the non-prefered method can create stress and often end up with needless back and forth.
- Dates: When will the communication take place? This is straight forward but also consider here any recurring communication needs. This is also an excellent place to track that communications have gone out when they needed to.
- Goals: What is this communication seeking to accomplish? All too often we communicate for the sake of doing so. Make sure you have a clear goal for why you are doing this and it will help to evaluate if your communication plan is working properly.
Once you’ve completed this for the relevant stakeholders and methods of communication, you are really all set. Remember to review and update the communication plan as needed. Also be sure to review those goals you set. If needs are being met you are in good shape. Otherwise some adjustment might be needed. Like any part of a project, it is important to be intentionally iterative in how you approach communication. Somethings will work, some will need to be changed, and others will fail totally. But if you are carefully tracking them, you can be sure your project won’t fail as well.