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Putting Together an Effective Communication Plan: Elements to Include

written by: Joe Taylor Jr. • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 5/3/2011

Having explored the different options, project managers can formalize processes into a binding communications plan.

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    Matching Workflow to Work Style

    The most important thing for project managers to understand when creating a communications plan is that no team can use just one method to communicate effectively. Many project communications tools, such as blogs or wikis, often fail outside of tech-oriented teams, since they don’t fit the existing communications styles of team members. Successful communications plans offer team members multiple ways to communicate with each other, while stressing the importance of centralized documentation and more formalized processes for reaching out to company leaders and stakeholders.

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    Creating Momentum Instead of Feedback Loops

    In addition, successful project managers understand that too much communication can actually grind otherwise productive teams to a halt. By requiring that all project participants review every communication passing through a system, managers can unwittingly cause so much busy work for their teams that no real work can get done. Many highly productive team leaders make a searchable, central archive a part of their communications plan; allowing participants to access threads and conversations when necessary instead of upon creation.

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    Funneling Ideas into Information

    Building the communications plan requires funneling information from the stream of daily data into a set of recurring, digestible nuggets. Filtering information appropriately involves boiling down key issues and decisions into executive summaries without losing the nuances of the original ideas. To build a strong plan, write down the answers to these questions related to different kinds of communications:

    • Regular Reporting: What regular reports must be distributed, to which project participants and how often? What is the process for setting up new reports later in the project? Who handles the reporting process and who verifies information before it is distributed?
    • Event-Driven Alerts: What milestones or crises should trigger a priority message and to which participants. In what format will alerts be delivered? Does a specific team member issue an alert or is it automatically delivered?
    • Audience Requests: How are information requests from project participants and from other stakeholders processed? Do all participants and stakeholders have access to all archived data or should it be partitioned according to security or seniority privileges? When might a project manager decline to provide requested information?
    • Public-Facing Information: Who determines what information should be made public and on what time table? Does the release of project-related information potentially influence markets? If so, should releases be timed to minimize or maximize impact?

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    Legal and Regulatory Concerns

    Finally, project managers must build a communications plan that accommodates all pertinent laws and regulations pertaining to their company, industry or location. For example, companies involved in health care and medical research must build privacy protections into any communication plan that includes patient records or study data. Public companies must comply with the internal controls stipulations of the Sarbanes Oxley Act. Many states and cities require companies to adhere to their own information collection standards.



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