Manage Communication – Large Projects

In a large project, all communication takes place in context of an overall Communication Management Plan. Status meetings and status reporting are required, just as for a medium-size project. In addition, there are many other types of proactive communication that need to be considered. This creative and proactive communication is laid out in a Communication Management Plan, which is created as follows.

Beginning of Project, Create Communication Management Plan

1. Project Manager, Determine the project stakeholders

In some cases these are groups of stakeholders with similar communications needs; for instance a project steering committee. In other cases, there may be a single person; for instance the sponsor.

2. Project Manager, Determine the communication needs for each stakeholder

The project manager can categorize the communication needs into three areas.

Mandatory. This generally includes project Status Reports, legal requirements, financial reporting, etc. This information is pushed out to the recipients.

Informational. This is information people want to know or that they may need for their jobs. This information is usually made available for people to read, but requires them to take the initiative, or pull the communication.

Marketing. This communication is designed to build buy-in and enthusiasm for the project and its deliverables. This type of information is pushed out to the appropriate people. You may also want to “brand” a large project if you require the organization culture or work habits to change.

3. Project Manager, For each stakeholder, brainstorm how to fulfill the communication need

It is important for the project manager to use Status Reports and other communication methods to manage expectations. Determine the information they need to know, how often they need an update, and the best manner to deliver the information. At this point, be creative in looking for ways to communicate to the project stakeholders. For instance, all stakeholders still need an updated project status. The steering committee may need to get together for an executive briefing and to provide strategic direction every other month. The project sponsor may need a personal briefing on a monthly basis. A quarterly newsletter may need to go out to the entire client organization for informational and marketing purposes.

4. Project Manager, Determine the effort required

Estimate the effort required to create and distribute each of the identified communication options outlined in step 3. Also determine the potential benefit of the communication to the recipient and the project team.

5. Project Manager, Prioritize the communication options

Discard the communication options that require high effort for marginal benefit. Also discard those that provide marginal benefit even though they may take little effort from the project team. Implement the communication options that provide high value and require low effort from the project team. Also evaluate those options that have high value and require a high level of effort from the project team. Some of these might make sense to implement while others may not.

6. Project Manager, Implement mandatory communications

Regardless of the prioritization, implement any communication options that are mandatory for the project or for the environment. This will definitely include project Status Reports, but there may also be government-required reports, legal reports, etc.

7. Project Manager, Add the resulting communication activities to the schedule

This will include assigning frequencies, due dates, effort hours and a responsible person(s) for each communication option implemented.

8. Project Manager, Plan for and Manage Documentation

Larger projects can also create a lot of documentation. This documentation can easily get out of control to a point where the information is scattered, hard to find and hard to organization. The process of managing documentation is much easier if the project manager takes care to plan what the documents will look like, where they will be stored and how they will be controlled.

Ongoing Processes

9. Project Manager, Execute the Communication Management Plan

The Communication Management Plan details the stakeholders, their information requirements, how often they should receive communications, the best format for the communications, etc. The project manager needs to execute the Communication Management Plan to make it real. This also includes responding to ad-hoc requests for information.

10. Project Manager, Team Members, Client, Schedule and attend status meetings

The team should attend status meetings on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. If the project manager prefers, there could be a status meetings for the project team and a separate meeting with the client. There should be a standard agenda for the meetings and the meeting should be kept to no more than one hour. In general, the purpose of the meetings is to communicate status, not solve problems. (An agenda for the meeting is included in the deliverable section.)

11. Project Manager, Create sponsor and stakeholder status reports

The project manager should send Status Reports to all stakeholders on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. Depending on the financial reporting cycle, the monthly Status Report should include a financial status as well.

12. Team Members, Create team status reports for the project management

The project team members should send a weekly or bi-weekly Status Report to the project manager detailing their progress during the reporting period. This information is used by the project manager to update each assigned activity in the schedule. This report is in addition to the status meeting. If the project manager understands the current detailed status for each team member, the Status Report may not be required. This may be the case if the project manager is also working on the detailed deliverables of the project.

A typical sequencing of Status Reports and status meetings is for the project team to report status to the project manager by the end of the last day of the week. The project manager updates the schedule and budget on the morning of the first day of the week and issues a status update to the sponsor and other stakeholders. The project manager and project team hold a status meeting on the second day of the week to discuss project status and assign work. This process ensures that the project manager is up-to-date on all project activities at the end of the week and is prepared for a productive status meeting with the project team and the client at the beginning of the following week.

13. Project Manager, Monitor Stakeholder Management Plan

You performed an initial stakeholder analysis when you defined the work in step 1 (See 1.2.5 Stakeholder Analysis.) The stakeholder analysis should also be updated periodically to ensure that the stakeholders are being engaged successfully. This includes validating the relative importance of the stakeholder groups as well as your interest for each group. If the stakeholders are not being engaged as you wished, you should update or change your activities. It is possible that you will also discover new stakeholders as the project progresses, and they should be accounted for in this process as well.

In addition, you need to execute the stakeholder management activities from your original plan. The communications aspect of your stakeholder analysis will already be executed as a part of your Communications Management Plan. However, there may be other elements of your stakeholder analysis that need to be executed as well.

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