The communication plan is the central document to ensure a regulated and structured exchange of information across all hierarchies in the project organization. Projects are temporary companies. Communication, escalation and information paths are clearly regulated in every company. This is also of great importance in projects.
Table of contents
The initial situation
Projects are operations which, in most cases, concern the whole enterprise. Even if the entire company is not involved in the project, different departments or organizational units are certainly actively involved.
Interdepartmental communication and coordination is the key to every project. The great challenge is to provide employees who would otherwise not work together with a uniform structure that makes efficient project management possible in the first place.
However, the line organization generally does not provide for such cross-departmental communication structures. In most organizations it is rather unusual to cross departmental boundaries and except in the canteen or at the coffee machine there is little contact with employees of other “branches” on the organization chart. Communication with project staff from other sectors must therefore be prescribed.
In order to maintain communication across departments, project meetings are institutionalized in which selected project members meet at defined intervals.
In most cases, this takes place every two weeks or every month. In these meetings the current progress, current challenges, possible problems and difficulties as well as their solutions are discussed.
This keeps all project members on the same level of information, facilitates an exchange of project work and the possibility of mutual support in current problems – such simple “talking to each other” is one of the most important components of project work. If you do not want to bring a project to its goal, the safest way to the abyss is to prevent communication. This is guaranteed to work!
Objectives of the communication plan
- Regulated exchange of information
- Optimization of the information and communication flow
- Creation of transparency and clarity in the project
- Promotion and control of communication through regular meetings
- Planning of communication structures:
– Which meetings, workshops,… exist?
– Who participates?
– What will be discussed?
– When do they take place?
– How often do they take place?
The way to the goal
Normally, the first draft of the project communication plan based on the project organization is prepared by the project manager and presented at the kick-off meeting. In the subsequent start workshop, this draft is revised by the project team until the communication plan is available in a final version. This provides information on the date and time, content and participants of the meetings.
During the entire course of the project, the communication plan is checked for validity and meaningfulness and, if necessary, meetings are inserted, extended or shortened, or deleted at all. Because if it turns out in the course of the project that in principle the same things are always discussed at the weekly status meetings, because the project is not progressing fast enough to produce news, it makes sense to change the periodicity of the meetings to, for example, two weeks.
6 Steps to the Communication Plan
- Identification of necessary meetings, workshops, etc.
- Definition of goals and contents
- Determination of the participants
- Agreement of periodicity and dates
- Selection of the location
- Written documentation and information to all participants
Do you want to bring a project to failure in any case?
==> Prevent any communication!
Exemplary elements of a communication plan
Kick off meeting:
- Initial situation/backgrounds/motives
- Goals, Non-goals
- Project organization and roles
- Communication structures
- Presentation of the project planning
- Clarification of open questions
Steering committee meeting:
- Strategic project controlling
- Summarized information about the current project status is sent to the next higher instance.
- Decisions on topics that cannot be taken by the project management alone
Client meeting (client and project manager):
- Strategic project controlling
- Summarized information about the current project status
- Decisions on topics that cannot be made by the project management alone
- Outlook for further action
Status meeting (project team) incl. status report:
- Operational project controlling
- Work package progress report (oral or written)
- Survey of ongoing activities and check of open ToDos
- Identification of open points and problems in project implementation
- Detection of critical plan deviations
- Development of controlling measures
- Making necessary decisions
- Outlook and clarification of next step
- Organization by the project team members
- Processing of the current content tasks in the project
- External” information about project goals and progress, current challenges, next steps
- Getting affected employees on board
- Same level of information throughout the company
Example project communication plan
For reasons of clarity, the project communication plan is optimally displayed in graphical form compressed on a few pages. It can also be displayed in tabular form in MS Excel, for example. Of course, most of the information is transported by both representations together.
Graphical representation of project communication plan, created with MS PowerPoint:
Tabular representation of project communication plan, created with MS PowerPoint
Practical tips and tricks
- No project is successful without adequate communication!
- Not everyone in a project needs the same amount of information.
- Design of communication on several levels (e.g. strategic level, operative level, information level).
- Constant checking of the circle of participants and the frequency of meetings for their meaningfulness.
- The communication plan is alive; adaptations can be made in any case.
We recommend the following articles for further reading:
- Work breakdown structure – 6 steps
- Work package
- Milestone Plan
- Time scheduling – Gantt chart
- Project order
- Project Client – role and tasks
- Project controlling – effective project monitoring
- Project reporting – meaningful project reports
- Social competence – a must-have for project managers?
- 9 Stages of Conflict Escalation according to Friedrich Glasl
- 4 Sides Model of Communication