Managing Communication

During the lifecycle of a project it is vital that team members and stakeholders have a clear path of communications. If communication paths are not kept in check they will rapidly grow out of control. The communication plan spells out communication paths, appropriate mediums for communication and appropriate intervals for communications.

The project manager must make sure during the construction of the communication plan that all communication needs are taken into account. What will the stakeholders require on an ongoing basis? What information will they need to be comfortable about the progress of the project? How frequently will they need updates on status, risk management, forecast completion, etc.? Defining these types of communication will reduce the amount of ad hoc communication necessary once project execution begins.

Information flow to stakeholders must be regulated by the project manager. The project manager must compile the communications at the expected intervals in the format the stakeholders expect to receive. These communications should not be ad hoc. Even in a crisis the project manager should have a plan for communicating with stakeholders in a manner that appropriately sets their expectations and makes them aware of the severity of the situation.

Team members will also have communication requirements but theirs will be of a different nature than those of stakeholders. Their communications are for the purpose of completing the project and communicating the pulse of the project to the project manager. They will make requests of the project manager to resolve issues that are standing in their way. These communications must flow more than stakeholder communications but must keep the project manager informed as they occur.

The project manager observes from the sidelines when it comes to communication between team members. These communications must have an established protocol for keeping the project manager updated via carbon copy or regular summaries from a designated project team member, however, the project manager’s involvement is not intended to regulate the flow of these communications. The project manager must not be in the way of regular project operations. They should only step in when they observe deviation from the project plan or realize a risk response is necessary.

Communication during the project lifecycle is carried out by everyone involved in the project. It is the project manager’s responsibility to make sure communication is planned and performed according to plan. They must keep information flowing to stakeholders in the originally agreed upon manner at the intervals the stakeholders expect. They must stay out of the way of efficient communication by team members to allow those team members to make effective progress on the project while at the same time staying informed enough to step in if the situation calls for it.

Effective communication is a tricky balance for the project manager. It contributes heavily to project success or failure. Without an effective plan to manage communication the project manager will experience a flood of communication and soon be drowning in a flow of information that is out of control.

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