Projects fail through poor communication. Without project communication what you design, when it is ready, and how it meets business need are left vague, unanswered, and can fall into the black hole organization noise. Lack of communication causes designers to design things few value.
A project succeeds through communication. From project concept and business case through project launch, communication is critical. Without project communication danger remains for a sponsor to create something no one wants, needs, or understands.
Just like a polluted river, if you did not bother to take the upstream planning effort to create clear communication, those downstream pay a larger share of the clean up. Starting a project without detailed scope is the difference in a getting a project done versus getting a project accomplished.
Good communication identifies What’s In It For Me? (WIFFM?) to relate to each stakeholder.
This is the 5th in a series around the importance of project Scope. The series started with Scope or: how to manage projects for organization success and includes tools and templates to help manage and plan projects.
Communication is Articulation
Communication is only effective with the ability for feedback accounted, otherwise you’ve confused information with communication. Communication is not information. Throughout the project life cycle, critical iterations are rendered useless without the ability to collect, capture, and measure.
Communication is send and receive, create and measure, validate and modify. Four areas where project communication dramatically improve project viability:
- A project business case that enables business strategy;
- Development of project scope;
- Project sponsor, project and product stakeholder, end-user, and customer alignment; and
- Change management: end-user adoption and project/product utility
The table below, from the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK 6.0) provides communication points to properly scope impact, stakeholders, and risk. To improve project scope, at the beginning, sponsor interpretation is validated, end-user needs and goals align, and subject matter experts provide work estimates of project risk to plan initial resources.
Elements of the Charter and Scope StatementElements distinguished between project charter and the scope statement. Source: PMBOK 4.0. Source: Project Management Institute
|Project purpose or justifiction||Product scope description (progressively elaborated)|
|Measurable project objectives and related success criteria||Project deliverables|
|High-level requirements||Product user acceptance criteria|
|High-level project description, product characteristics||Project boundaries|
|Summary milestone schedule||Project constraints|
|Summary budget||Project assumptions|
|Project approval requirements:|
What constitutes success?
Who decides success?
Who signs off?
|Assigned Project manager, responsibility and authority level|
|Name and responsibility of the person(s) authorizing project charter|
Sure, you can send a project manager off to build all this information, because you, or the project sponsor, are too busy to get bogged down in the details, but the further into the project life cycle that scope changes, project risk is compounded and project cost soars. Lack of communication planning is realized when:
- Project timelines extend,
- Resources are added, and
- Costs rise
Communicate Scope to Communicate Success
In the zeal to start a project, people too often take too little to interact with project sponsors, stakeholders, and customers and truly collect and analyze their expectations. With an impact assessment the project begins to present change requirements to people, process, and technology. Scope modification adds project risk throughout the entire project life cycle.
After a project starts if scope is modified from new stakeholder identification demands serious strain is put on project success. Projects rely on communication. The goal of a communication plan is to:
- Align stakeholder expectation;
- Validate business case;
- Prepare organization adoption;
With a communication plan you look to:
- Create end-user awareness;
- Inform how the project enables the business strategy;
- Manage change implications for stakeholder people and groups;
- Provide awareness for individuals of the basic scope, objectives, and plan of the project:
- Understand how individual and group impact, in functional area and throughout the organization:
- Create positive perception of project benefit;
- Give the expected action work required for project team and implement their assigned project roles;
- Externalize project vision and how the organization will embrace it;
- Create individual ownership to make the project their own and to become change advocates;
- Engage in feedback opportunity to measure communication effectiveness;
- Pulse check project progress and user feedback with iterative, end-user opportunity (Agile)
Scope can never be defined without asking sponsors, stakeholders, and customers their needs. Only clear, two-way communication helps projects deliver both need and value. When communication is not planned, from the project’s initiation project resistance increases and change management resources are wasted.
The Communication Template
This template provides a planning tool to meet stakeholder communication needs. With this you can plan what to communication, to whom you communication, when you communication, and how you measure communication.
Communication is far bigger than the communication team. When we include Lean Agile and Scrum methods to program and project management, then communication really increases project success factors.
Communication is different than information:
- Communication is a two-way exchange: convey message, measure, and react to feedback.
- Feedback can come from questions, discussions, surveys, or a host of sources you have asked stakeholders to lend their view to what you communicate and What’s In It For Them? (WIIFT?)
- Information is one-way flow or data, detail, and delivery.
- A newsletter, a speech, an email are examples of push. Without feedback there is no measure of penetrated commitment, understanding, or ownership
The communication plan comes in after an impact assessment that, in turn, provides proper context to a stakeholder analysis. Every project starts with unforeseen effect, but no project succeeds without stakeholder motivation and a proper communication plan to address their motivations, needs, and goals.
Here is my extended view of scope from the eBook:
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