This week, we discuss Communications Management, which as predefined in the PMBok- Sixth Edition, is management of the exchange of information, intended or in involuntary. There are six mechanisms by which people exchange information:
1. Written form
3. Formal or informal
5. All Media
Since most of a Project Manager’s time is dedicated to communications (voluntary or involuntary), it is essential to plan, organize and control the entire process. PMBok Sixth Edition serves as an excellent guide:
General Recommendations for Project Communication Management with Stakeholders
When establishing communication with stakeholders, it is essential to:
1. Identify stakeholders
a. Any stakeholders who are missed will likely be found later. When they are uncovered, those stakeholders will make changes that could cause delays. Changes made later in the project are much more costly and harder to integrate than those made earlier.
b. A list of stakeholders is included in the stakeholder register.
c. Stakeholders are first identified as part of initiating the project, and this list is reassessed during project execution.
2. Determine Stakeholder Requirements
a. The project manager must make every effort to obtain as many of the known requirements as possible before work begins.
b. There are many ways to ensure all requirements are in order – from direct inquiry, to conducting requirement reviews, to illustrating the project and organizational consequences should essential requirements be uncovered during later stages of the project.
c. The requirements should not just relate to the project or product and should also include stakeholder communication requirements.
3. Determine Stakeholder Expectations
a. Expectations are the overall stakeholder vision of what a successful project outcome looks like. They tend to be more ambiguous than stated requirements, or they may be undefined requirements. Expectations may be intentionally or unintentionally hidden.
b. Naturally, expectations that go unidentified will have major impacts across all constraints.
c. Expectations are converted to requirements and become part of the project.
4. Determine Stakeholder Interest
a. Stakeholders have varied levels of interest for directly participating in the execution of a project.
b. An excellent project manager will determine each stakeholder’s interest related to the project and attempt to either build them into the project or to implement them as reward.
5. Determine Stakeholder Level of Influence
a. To some degree, each stakeholder will be able to negatively or positively affect a project, which represents their level of influence. Each level of influence should be identified and managed.
6. Plan Stakeholder Communications
a. Project management focuses on planning before action. Since communications are the most frequent cause of problems on projects, planning communications is critical.
7. Communicate with Stakeholders
a. Stakeholders should be included in project presentations and receive key project information such as progress reports, updates, changes to the project management plan, and crucial changes to project documents.
8. Manage Stakeholder Expectation and Influence
a. Stakeholders must be managed throughout the life of the project.
To manage communications effectively, it is important to understand and use appropriate key terms such as:
Plan Communications Management
Plan Communications Management is the process of developing a communication plan and corresponding processes based on existing procedures and stakeholder needs. The main output of this process is the Communications Management Plan. Of note through the process:
1. Communication requirements analysis determines the information needs of the project stakeholders.
2. Sources of information used to identify communication requirements include:
o Organizational charts
o Stakeholder register
o Project charter
o Project documents
3. Communication technology and factors that affect it are:
o Urgency of the need for information
o Availability of technology
o Ease of use
o Project environment
o Sensitivity and confidentiality of the information
4. Communication models are framed around three parts:
1. Effective communications
The sender should encode a message, determine which communication method to use, and confirm that the message is understood. When encoding the message, the sender should be aware of the following communication factors:
o Non-verbal – about 55% of all communication is non-verbal
o Paralingual – pitch and tone of voice also help to convey a message
2. Communication methods can be grouped into the following categories:
o Interactive communications
§ The method is reciprocal and can involve just two people or many people.
§ Examples include conversations, meetings, and conference calls.
o Push communications
§ This method involves a one-way stream of information.
§ The sender provides the information to the people who need it but does not expect feedback on the communication.
§ Examples include status reports and email updates.
o Pull communications
§ The project manager places the information in a central location. The recipients are then responsible for retrieving or “pulling” the information from the location.
Manage Communications is the process of creating, collecting, distributing, and updating project information according to the Communications Management Plan, and the process occurs during the Executing Process Group.
The key benefit of this process is that it enables efficient communications between project team members and stakeholders. Of note when managing communications:
1. Communication methods include:
o Face-to-face (most effective), meetings, video and audio conferences, email, instant messaging, etc.
2. Techniques and considerations for effective communications include:
o Sender-receiver models
o Choice of media
o Writing style
o Meeting management techniques
o Presentation techniques
o Facilitation techniques
o Listening techniques
3. Performance reporting:
o Includes collecting and distributing project performance information.
o Includes status reports, progress reports, and forecasts.
o Is a backward-looking, not forward-looking tool.
4. Project communications components include:
o Performance reports,
o Deliverables status,
o Schedule progress
o Cost incurred
5. Communication Channels are equal to [n*(n-1)]/2, where n = number of people.
6. PM Expectations
o Stakeholder needs must continue to be met and their issues resolved throughout the project.
o Ensure stakeholders feel that their needs and concerns are being considered and met.
o Open communication channels with the stakeholders and project manager allows for efficient transmission of potential changes, added risks, and other information.
Monitor Communications is the process of analyzing communications through the project life cycle and sending relevant work performance information to stakeholders. Of note when monitoring communications:
1. Communication blockers include:
o Noisy surroundings
o Distance between those trying to communicate
o Improper encoding of messages
o Making negative statements
o Language barriers
o Culture barriers
o Any way of discrimination
2. Performance reports come in many forms, including:
o Status report – this report describes where the project currently stands as measured against the performance baseline.
o Progress report – describes what has been accomplished.
o Trend report – examines project results over time to examine progress.
o Forecasting report – predicts future project status.
o Variance report – compares actual results to baselines.
o Earned value report – integrates scope, cost, and schedule measures to assess project performance.
o Lessons learned documentation – performance is used as lessons learned for future projects.
3. Other critical reporting information includes:
o Reports should provide the kinds of information and the level of detail required by stakeholders.
o Reports should be designed for the needs of the project.
o The best way to have a report read and acted on is to use the most appropriate communication method when sending the report.
o Reporting should not take up all a project manager’s time. Remember that many reports are just about the past. Managing the project takes precedence over historical reports.
o Reports should include measurements against the performance measurement baseline (the combined scope, schedule, and cost baselines) set in the project management plan. Those measurements are an indication of project manager impact and success.
o Reports must be truthful and based on facts, not feeling or assumptions, and not to hide information.
Mishandling communication could cause serios damage to a project. A good project manager takes the time to plan communications, to dedicate the appropriate amount of time to it, and to request feedback on a frequent basis.