By Dexter Duncan
A common mistake in planning is to forget about the stakeholders by not detailing a communications plan and acting on it. Some tend to jump straight into planning the details of how they going to complete the project without regular or any communications with the Stakeholders:
- How do you verify that you understand the documents they give you?
- How do you establish risks associated with changes to the project
- How do you get buy-in that your result will be signed off.
The best-practice is to first map out the type of communications that might be required according to the personality of the stakeholder.
Based on the stakeholders interest in the project and power to make your life difficult, the above matrix is a good start.
The next thing to do in a communications plan is to understand the political situation of the stakeholder. Some simple questions will suffice:
- What is the reporting structure? Is this person the top dog?
- Does the boss/decision maker tend to delegate work to someone else?
- Are there any pending issues/risks that could impact project?
To understand better, here is a simple example. Let’s say you are the Project Manager in charge of building a bridge. For simplicity, the key stakeholders are identified for you as Mayor of the city, Town Council and Finance person (the one providing the money).
1) The finance stakeholder is not around during the project initiation phase and some of the budget figures look wrong. Has he has delegated to one of his/her operations managers? Who makes decisions when he is travelling overseas? Do you have his approval to work with his delegated authority? Asking questions about reporting structure would help you get a handle on these.
2) The mayor could be entertaining some shipping company and be pushing to change city bridge dimension regulations to change to accommodate them. The bridge will need to rotate, lift up or be built higher to ensure large ships can get through.
Thirdly, you need to involve the stakeholders at each stage. Have they signed off on your approach? Have you shown them the definition document for their approval? Have you planned to get their input? Have you even asked for a meeting? You need to think through the communications plan and get approval at each major stage, in addition to understanding if there is anything on the horizon which might change the scope.
Imagine getting to a proposal document and getting to execution or closing stage before you realize you are on the wrong track. Not having or acting on your communications plan adds to your risk, shows poor project management and ends up costing you time and money. See below. Changes to a project should be done as early as possible in the project. The later you make the change, the MORE it is going to cost you in time and money ($$$$).
Many projects can get rejected, reworked or take countless and unnecessary time and money due to lack of a communications plan. Is your plan up to scratch?