Good communication is important on all projects. The project manager must make sure that team members, customers, and stakeholders have the information they need to do their jobs. Communication is also a vital way to manage expectations about how the project is going and who needs to be doing what. This can be as simple as talking to your team members about how they are doing on their assigned work or holding a regularly scheduled status meeting. However you do it, proper communication can go a long way toward ensuring project success.

On smaller projects, communication is simple and does not require much effort. However, communication becomes much more complex as projects increase in size and involve more people. Larger projects require project managers to plan communication in advance, taking into account the particular needs of the stakeholders involved. This is when to use a Communication Plan. A Communication Plan allows you to think through how you might communicate most efficiently and effectively. Effective communication means that you are providing information in the right format, at the right time, and with the right impact. Efficient communication means that you are providing the information that is needed and nothing more.

Table of Contents

Developing a Communication Plan

1. Identify the project stakeholders. You may find that your stakeholders are essentially groups of people, like a project steering committee, that have similar communication needs. In other cases, a stakeholder may be an individual, like the project sponsor.

2. Determine the communication needs for each stakeholder and decide what you are trying to accomplish. Usually, the type of needed communication can be categorized by one or more of three general descriptors:

3. For each stakeholder/objective identify how best to fulfill the communication need. Determine what information each stakeholder or group needs to know, how often they need an update, and the best manner in which to deliver the information. Be smart about information re-use to different groups.

4. Determine the effort required to create and distribute each of the identified communication options outlined in Step 2. Also determine the potential benefit of the communication. Don't forget to add this effort into any plans and estimates.

5. Prioritize the communication options that you have established. Discard those that provide marginal benefit. Implement the communication options that provide high value and require low effort from the project team. Evaluate those options that have high value and require a high level of effort from the project team. Some of these might make sense, but others may not.

6. Regardless of the prioritisation, implement any communication options that are mandatory for the project or for the environment. This could include project status reports, government required reports, legal reports, etc.

7. Add the resulting communication activities to the workplan. This will include assigning frequencies, due dates, effort hours, and a responsible person(s) for each communication option implemented.

Using the status report as a communication tool

Status Report for Communication pictured below:


Purpose - keeps every one in the project team focussed on what it is you are trying to deliver.

Risk/Issue list - are the owners working/resolving them? Keeps the team focussed on clearing the blockages and helping each other.

Achieved this period - celebrate! You did good stuff. An opportunity to highlight how someone is contibuting to the team and increase his esteem.

Planned but not achieved - How can we help and get these onto the achieved list? Is there an issue here we need to address as a team? If you are using the Critical Chain method it is important not see this as failure but only as task that we need to hurry on.

Planned next period - clarity on who is doing what and the expectations for next time.

Milestone tracking - How are we doing in the bigger picture? For Critical Chain you may want to report buffer consumption, or for EVM CPI and SPI.

The process to adopt with a weekly status reporting is as follows:

Communicating bad news

The impact of bad news on stakeholders can vary depending on how the communication is framed. Prospect Theory indicates that bad news framed in terms of gain or loss can have a significant impact on how it is preceived. Choose your language carefully depending on the desired outcome. Priming (setting tone and mood) can also have a big effect on the resulting outcome.


The Wisdom acrostic is useful to use when thinking about how to communicate:

W hat do you want them to lean?
Why I nterested?
How S ophisticated are they?
How much D etail?
Who should O wn the information or outcome?
How to M otivate them to listen?


30 January 2009 (14)