Project managers frequently create project plans to meet important project deadlines, but very seldom do I see them spending the time to build a communication plan. This simple tool is a very effective way to align leaders and teams. This will ensure important messages are shared at the right time by the right person and are key in helping orchestrate change.
When developing a communication plan you should include these ten key components:
- Target Date – When the communication is planned to occur
- Frequency – How often will the meeting occur? Recurring vs. one-time event?
- Topic –What is the main subject of the communication?
- Key message(s) or objective – What are the key message(s) or main point(s) that need to be discussed?
- Audience – Who will receive the communication?
- Event/vehicle – How will they receive the communication? Face-to-face? Conference call? Video conference? E-mail? Webcast recording? Snail mail, etc.?
- Roles – Who will create, send, own, present, or facilitate the communication? (i.e. project manager)
- Materials – What materials will be shared? Who will create them?
- Status – What is the current state of the communication?
- Feedback mechanism – How will you ask for and obtain feedback so you know your message has been communicated? Direct feedback? Management questioning? Surveys, etc.?
Additional considerations to consider during the development of your communication plan:
- “WIIFM” aka “What’s in it for me?” – Put yourself in the shoes of the person or group you are trying to communicate with and make sure what you are saying is relevant to the audience you are talking to. The same topic may need to be covered in different ways or with different key messages when there are multiple stakeholders involved.
- If it is important, plan to say it more than once. – For instance, if the building is on fire they don’t just make one announcement over the loudspeaker. In order to stress importance and reinforce understanding, important messages may need to be communicated multiple ways, multiple times.
- Work to balance the communications with the complexity of the project. – For example, when rolling out a new ERP system which impacts hundreds of different stakeholders, more communication would be needed than what would be needed for a software upgrade that affects one department.
- Get feedback. – It is important to get input from team members and outside stakeholders to ensure your messages and timing are estimated correctly. You wouldn’t want your key communications going out during month-end close if your target audience is the accounting team. Sharing with others will help you identify opportunities for improvement and avoid miscommunications.
A communication plan, similar to a project plan, is a living document that should continue to evolve throughout the life of the project. Review it frequently with your team and update based on changes to the project needs. This document is very flexible and can be created to help manage on-going operations or large scale project transformations. Try incorporating these tools into your next project and see what a difference planned communications can make in helping your change succeed.