Common Elements for All Communications

{Campbell, 2009. Communications Skills for Project Managers.} 

Three steps you must consider when you prepare any important communication.

    1. Analyze the target, 2. Plan the approach, 3. Deliver the message. 

Step One: Analyze the Target. Be on target with your communication.

Stakeholder Analysis; Purpose of the Communication.

Who will receive the messages?

Who are the stakeholders?

Who is actively involved in the project?

Whose interests are affected as a result of project completion or execution?

Stakeholder Analysis Tool: Questions – Response

Who are the key individuals who care about the work that will be affected by the project?

Sales, Customer Relations, Manufacturing, Marketing, Vendor Management and Contracts, Senior Management Team

What are their responsibilities related to Project (Name)?

What do they know about the project already?

Who knows about the project and can help us to understand the situation?

Who doesn’t know about the project, and what information will they require?

Who is likely to dislike any ideas for change?

What will they dislike about those changes?

What information and techniques are most likely to be accepted by these stakeholders?

How will we best manage their expectations for the project?

Key groups of people impacted by the project: Project Communications with

-> Executive Management and Sponsor

-> Working Committee

-> Operations, Users

-> Other Stakeholders

Who are the stakeholders; who will receive the messages?

Target messages to distinct stakeholder needs and concerns;

Create alignment and understanding.

We want our communications plan to facilitate interaction between and among all stakeholders.

Does this message address distinct needs and concerns?

Does this message support Direction, Alignment, and Commitment, DAC?

The project communications plan is at the center of the interactions between and among all stakeholders.

The stakeholder analysis guide or tool assists the project manager in clarifying the perspectives and concerns of all people associated with the project. The tool provides insights into who supports the changes the project will produce and who opposes them.

The question related to information and communication techniques helps the project manager understand how to communicate persuasively. For example, some people are only impressed by data; others are mostly concerned with how people will react to changes or suggestions for change. Therefore, communication must be adjusted.

Purpose of the Communication – What are you trying to achieve with the communication?

Any important communication related to your project should achieve one of these four broad objectives:

Instruction: Informing or teaching people something. 

Inspiration: Motivating your readers or listeners to act in a certain way. 

Advocating: Convincing or selling someone on your point of view. 

Stimulation: Stimulating discussion or debate.

When stakeholders read my note or listen to my presentation, they declare, “The purpose of this communication is …”

As PM, ask: 

What is your perspective on the project; what are your concerns?

Are you informed about the changes the project will produce?

What impacts will the projects as a whole and parts of it have?

What impact should it have but does not?

Do you have any unanswered questions as a stakeholder?

What are your preferred way of information processing and communication medium?

What frame does the stakeholder operate from; is it the structural frame, the HR frame, the political frame, or the symbolic frame? 

Step Two: Plan the Approach

Analyze the target; Define the purpose; to achieve your purpose with this target audience, what is your plan?

Strategy; Politics and Communication; Formal or Informal; Barriers to Communication.

Strategy is a way to achieve a purpose; by framing your communications to fit the stakeholders’ expectations, you are trying to reach, influence, and move their minds, hearts, and hands. 

Most critical to least critical: Many variables impact the outcome of a (decision) process. Start with the most critical and move to the least critical, e.g., how you choose a vendor.

Problem, Solution: often used in technical situations to communicate resolutions to problems and issues.

Question, Answer: where a particular communication addresses people’s questions and provides answers.

Big Picture, Small Picture: how do the various streams form the larger river?

Compare, Contrast: How might this project be similar to another familiar one (compare), and how might it differ (contrast)? Elevate the differentiator important to the stakeholder receiving the communication. For example, if your project seems similar to a failed past project, clarify how your project is different.

Politics and Communication: consider opinions and beliefs and how they affect your ability to achieve your purpose.

Two key sources of power are authority and expertise. You may need one or both for your communication to achieve its objective.

Also, consider who has a vested interest in the status quo or who would lose power or authority due to changes the project brings.

Formal or Informal: influenced by corporate culture and command structure.

Memo or email; clear, concise, or detailed… Aim for appropriate language.

Barriers to Communication: obstacles, hurdles; macro, micro

Time zones, geography, language, culture, technical terminology, jargon, abbreviations, acronyms.

Keep language concrete and direct.

Jargon and acronyms serve to include and also exclude.

Draft your messages and then ask several members of stakeholder groups to review them; ask for suggestions for wording appropriate to their constituencies. Communicating in their language builds credibility.

Step Three: Deliver the Message

Tools and Technology: Develop guidelines for and use of.

Four Rules for Communications: Frequency, Primacy, Recency, Emotion.

Frequency: one time is not enough for people to remember your message.

Primacy: people remember well the first time they heard about something. It sets a mental benchmark for the project or initiative, the yardstick against which they measure all subsequent communications.

Recency: people remember the most recent information they hear and compare it to previous announcements for inconsistencies. Be sure to explain any changes, or else people will speculate why things have changed.

Emotion: emotional impact, sensitivities.

Oral versus Written: use a combination of written and oral.

Role Descriptions: who has responsibility and authority for what.

Analyze the target, Plan the approach, and Deliver the message.