Project Stakeholder Communication

Good project communication is critical. Without it, a good project is susceptible to difficulties and struggles that can be prevented. For a challenged project, the level of communication can mean the difference between recovery and demise. These are universal truths which are certainly applicable to all projects irrespective of the type of the project.

It seems that communication should be easy enough since we tend to interact with experienced professionals in our careers. However, stakeholder literacy and skill-set does not always translate into a project with good communication. Complexities of geographical distance, technology, and multiple stakeholders who must interact with each other along with corporate politics create additional strain on project communications and can add to the communication challenges. For instance, a project sponsor may have concerns on meeting the planned delivery date due to a perception that project activities are not being completed in a timely manner. In reality, the client project manager may not be regularly sharing project status with senior leadership.

Here are several concepts that can be useful in managing communications on a project:

Basis for Project Interaction

Develop a communication plan that reduces the risk of project interaction issues. Consider what plan elements to include based on these two goals:

  1. Will this process help the project constituents do a better job of sharing information and getting things done?
  2. Will this process be productive for the stakeholders without over burdening already heavy workloads?

If both of these questions can be answered “yes,” then consider implementing the idea. Otherwise, always consider the potential negatives of a process that might not be beneficial.

Projects, Politics, and People

Relationship building is always a work in progress; it will never be fully-finished. There are several important elements that should always be remembered when building and maintaining business relationships:

  1. Respect – The ability to hold another in regard, to value the contribution an individual makes and to treat another with curtesy. For some people, respect comes easy because you value their abilities and they reciprocate, in kind.
  2. Resonance – The way in which you harmonize with other people’s working styles, goals, and points of view. When you have a high resonance with another, there is an easy sense of cooperation.

Effective interpersonal communication cannot occur using short emails and brief interaction with stakeholders. Good communication is the result of sound working relationships. Good relationships are slowly developed through consistent interaction, and honest behavior.

Take the time to always assess which of your working relationships could use some attention and seek to improve both respect and resonance in all of interactions with stakeholders.

Project Vision

Clearly define and communicate the high level objectives for the project with the following items:

  • Business Vision – the specific business strategy that the project must align with.
  • Problem or Opportunity – the current state and present conditions.
  • Mission Statement – future state or end results expected to be attained.
  • Success Criteria – defined in terms of cost, time, and performance factors.
  • High Level Scope – expected deliverables and out of scope items.
  • Assumptions and Constraints – define assumptions and known impositions that could affect the execution of work.
  • Risks – Identify potential threats to the project success.

Stakeholder Analysis

Determine how a stakeholder should be engaged during the project. The strategy for involvement and communication should be developed after an analysis is completed. Key attributes that should be considered:

  1. Impact – How direct of an impact does this stakeholder have upon the project’s deliverables and outcomes?
  2. Influence – What is the level of influence that this stakeholder has upon the actions and opinions of others?
  3. Inclination – What is the stakeholder’s expected view of the project?

Each stakeholder should be measured for these three attributes as a method for developing a strategy for their inclusion into the project effort.

In summary, good project communication is a critical core component to the successful delivery of projects as well as many other situations that involve the interaction among team resources and stakeholders. Keep these concepts in mind and they should become another valuable tool within your tool set.

 

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