Planning communications involve considering the performing organizations environment (i.e. Enterprise Environmental Factors), including its culture and expectations. The performing organizations processes, procedures, historical records, lessons learned and other information (i.e. organizational process assets) should also be taken into consideration. The output is the Communications Management Plan which is a component of Project Management Plan.
During project initiating, the efforts begin to identify stakeholders and their communication requirements. In planning, it is determined how to apply that information. The information and communication needs of the stakeholders are taken into consideration in the Plan Communications process. A clear and concise communication requires handling communications in a structured way and choosing the best type of communication for the situation.
Information can be expressed as:
Formal written: It is used when there are complex problems, for project management plan, for project charter, memos, communicating over long distances
Formal verbal: Used during presentation and speeches
Informal written: Used for Emails, handwritten notes, text messages, instant messaging
Informal verbal: Used in meetings, conversions
Project management requires a more structured approach to communications. Communication models are comprised of three parts: the sender, the message and the receiver. Each message is encoded by the sender, gets transmitted to the receiver and is decoded by him. There are certain noise factors in communication models such as receivers education, language, cultural effect of the way the message is decoded by the receiver.
For effective communication, the sender should decode the message carefully, identify the communication method to be used to send the message and confirm if the message is understood. The sender can be aware of the following communication factors:
Nonverbal: Most of what is communicated is non-verbal. It is based on physical mannerism. About 55% of all communication is non-verbal.
Paralingual: Pitch and tone of voice also help to convey a message.
The receiver should decode the message carefully and confirm the message is understood. This includes watching the speaker to pickup physical gestures and facial expressions, thinking about what to say before responding, and using active listening, in which the receiver confirms that he/she is listening, expresses agreement or disagreement, or asks for clarification.
Planning communications involve determining the specifics of how to communicate each item. Communication can take place through face-to-face interactions, by telephone, fax, mail, or email; through virtual or in-person meetings; and through intranet or internet-based forums for information. These different means of communications is termed as Communication Technology.
Communication methods can be grouped into the following categories:
Interactive Communication: In this method two or more people interact with each other. An individual provides information which is received by the other person who then responds to the information given by the individual. Meetings, conference calls, video conferences are examples of Interactive communication.
Push Communication: Unlike interactive communication, this method involves sending the information to the recipient with no expectation of receiving the feedback. This is one-way streaming of information. Status reports, mass-mailers, project updates sent to a large population are examples of push communication.
Pull Communication: In this method, the sender places the information at a central location (like a SharePoint or a share drive) and the recipients responsible to use the information or need the information retrieve the details from that location.
Control Of Communications
The project manager cannot control all of the information. The project manager needs to control the flow of communication and the information shared in the communication. About 85-90% of the project managers time is spent in communicating
There are several rules for meetings. Some of them are:
Meetings should have a time limit, and project manager should keep to it
Recurring meetings should be scheduled in advance
Meeting with the team should be regular (however, need not be often)
Each meeting should have a specific purpose and agenda
The agenda should be distributed to the meeting attendees before the meeting
Team should stick to the agenda during meeting
Team members and meeting attendees should know their role in meetings before hand (for example, one member could be the minute taker and the other could be a time-keeper)
Communication channels can be calculated using the formula:
N (N 1) / 2 where N = the number of people.
Communication Management Plan
A communication management plan documents how the project manager manages and controls communication. Communications are very complex. Hence, communication management plan must be in writing. All stakeholder needs must be addressed. Communication management plan becomes a part of project management plan.
The project manager is responsible for distributing project related information to many stakeholders of the project. Different stakeholders need to receive different information in various formats, and the project manager should have identified in advance on what each stakeholder needs to know, how, and when. Implementing the Communications Management Plan is the output of Distribute Information Process. A project manager should be able to distribute (send) information and also needs to make sure that it is effective and efficient for the recipient.
Manage Stakeholder Expectations
Managing stakeholder expectations requires proactive actions from the project manager to make the stakeholders feel that their needs and concerns are at least being considered, even if they are not agreed to. The efforts of managing stakeholder expectations also allows the communication channels to be open between the stakeholders and the project managers so that the stakeholders can inform the project managers of potential risks, changes and other related information.
Attention to stakeholders needs is required for managing their expectations when the work is being done. This helps in building trust, resolving conflicts, preventing problems and increases belongingness of the stakeholder for the project. The project manager can review multiple project documents such as stakeholder register, stakeholder management strategy, communications management plan, issue logs, and changes to determine the actions required to manage stakeholder expectations.
The communication blockers include noisy surroundings, improper encoding and decoding of messages, making negative statements, culture, language, hostility, distance between those trying to communicate, among others.
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