Project Communication: An Exercise in Managing Change

Everyone intuitively knows it: communication is the key to any successful project. In fact, constant, effective communication among all project stakeholders ranks high among the factors leading to the success of a project. It is a key prerequisite of getting the right things done in the right way. As knowledge is power, sharing knowledge is empowering every project stakeholder.

It is a best practice among effective project management philosophies build in check points to ensure a thorough understanding and to secure early buy-in from different stakeholder groups. The number of formal communication checkpoints should vary depending on the size of the project and on the number of stakeholders in your company.

A project communication plan is the written strategy for getting the right information to the right project stakeholders at the right time. Each stakeholder has different requirements for information as they participate in the project in different ways. For information to be used, it has to be delivered to its target users timely. As a project manager, while developing your communication plan, you need to decide how often to contact each stakeholder and with what information.

Your communication plan should include the following components:

  1. The kickoff meeting. This establishes project timelines, required resources, agreed-upon outcomes for the project, reporting schedules and so on. The kick-off meeting serves two purposes. Firstly, it serves to introduce the project team and formalize the project management aspects of the overall project. Secondly, it provides an opportunity for the project team to receive a more detailed briefing from the client and to finalize user and stakeholder involvement.
  2. A review meeting could be held at the end of any of the analysis, design, or implementation phases. Here, you discuss the outcomes of that phase and their bearing on how to proceed with the project. This meeting aims to create a shared understanding of the emphasis in the remaining phases of the project and allows the project team to reconsider any assumptions based on learnings so far.
  3. A technical review meeting, if applicable, explains the design to the client’s technical team and gain any feedback about any implementation issues, before the design progresses too far. The goal would be to walk the client’s technical team through the high-level design concepts, showing them the paper designs and explaining both the rationale behind the different designs, and how we would expect each interaction to work.
  4. Regularly scheduled milestone meetings. Make sure that these intervals are agreed upon by the client and that these meetings happen. Bring an agenda to each meeting to review every component of the project, wins, status and challenges. These elements should cover resources, costs and issues.
  5. Final presentation. The presentation to client project stakeholders at the end is a crucial opportunity for your organization to understand the design so far, and the rationale it is based on.

Change Management: The Goal of Project Communication An often-mentioned buzzword in business circles, change management is really the core of project management communication. There are many “meanings” of change management, but for the purposes of this discussion, let’s keep it simple.

The first and most obvious definition of “change management” is that the term refers to the task of managing change. In the context of project management, change management is essentially the goal of the communication process and structure. The obvious is not necessarily unambiguous. Managing change is itself a term that has at least two meanings.

One meaning of “managing change” refers to the making of changes in a planned and managed or systematic fashion. The goal is to more effectively implement new methods and systems in an existing organization.

As we referred to in part 1 of this report, a very useful framework for thinking about the change process is problem solving. Interestingly, this is also how effective project management is approached. Managing change is seen as a matter of moving from one state to another, specifically, from the problem state to the solved state. Problem analysis is generally acknowledged as essential. Goals are set and achieved at various levels and in various areas or functions. Ends and means are discussed and related to one another. Careful planning is accompanied by efforts to obtain buy-in, support and commitment. The net effect is a transition from one state to another in a planned, orderly fashion.

The bottom line: change is a reality in any project situation. Therefore, project management inherently involves stimulating change within an organization. Some organizations are set up for this, others aren’t. In order to effectively affect change through your client project, make sure you understand that people resist change as natural parts of the process. By regularly communicating through various means and structures, you can ultimately overcome those barriers to ensure project success.

Check out these resources for more information on project and change management:

http://www.change-management.com/

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