The problem with most relationships (including working relationships) is communication. Way too much communication.
It may sound funny, but its a common problem in most work places. So how do you communicate effectively anyway?
Understanding Your Communication Needs
A consideration when understanding your communication needs is knowing how complex your communication channels are. For a small project team, say four people, things are pretty easy to manage. As we add people to the team, things get very complicated very quickly, in fact, it grows exponentially more complicated the more people you add.
The formula for calculating communication channels is n(n-1)/2 where n is the number of people in your group. These can be project stakeholders, workers, or managers &emdash; anyone involved in the project.
For the small group of only four we mentioned earlier, the communication channels are pretty simple and we have only six possible channels of communication. 4(4-1)/2 = 6
With a larger group, at 25 individuals, things get pretty ugly pretty quickly. 25(25-1)/2 = 300, meaning we have 300 unique paths for communication to travel.
Knowing that, its easy to see how communication can be a challenge and how misunderstandings can occur. Here's a few tips to reduce the challenges of a complex communication network.
Implementing a Communications Plan
Your organization should have a communications plan for its projects. The communications plan should include:
Stakeholder Communication Requirements
What are the stakeholders expectations? Identify when the expect to receive updates, status reports, or input.
Time Frame and Frequency for the Distribution of Required Information
Identify how frequently information, such as reports, status updates, etc, will be distributed.
Person Responsible for Communicating the Information
A single person, usually the project manager, should be designated as the single point of contact to interface with stakeholders. This keeps information from descending to back channels, assists the project manager in managing stakeholder expectations, and keeps the project manager informed.
Person or Groups Who Will Receive the Information
Identify who, or which groups, will be the recipients of information.
Methods or Technologies Used to Transmit the Information (e.g. email, memo, meeting, etc)
Once the communication topics and recipients have been identified, determine the method for distributing the communication.
Resources Allocated for Communications Activities &emdash; How Much Time and Budget Will be Spent Communicating
This is an important, but often over looked item. You should be tracking how much time you and your team are spending just communicating. This time adds up quickly, and unless scoped, identified, documented it often becomes lost time.
Escalation Process Identifying Time Frames and the Management Chain (names) for Escalation of Issues
For issues that cannot be resolved at a lower staff level, a plan should be in place for escalating and involving the appropriate level of management. This process should be clearly documented so the right people are brought in at the right time.
Communication is a huge part of any project, but the details are often overlooked which can lead to disaster. PMBOK 5 calls for these key items, and a few others, to be documented as part of the communications plan. Keep in mind its more than just going through the steps, building and executing the plan are critical parts in managing a successful project.