Six Drivers of Project Success You Can’t Overlook, Part III
In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I talked about the importance of strong, consistent sponsorship and the fundamental need for organizational relevance to ensure a project’s success. Part 3 builds on a driver closely related to both of these: Communication. Telling people things is easy. Communicating is hard, especially when a project has many moving parts and spans a long duration. So, what makes for great project communication?
Target the right messages to the right audiences. A great communication plan is, in effect, a marketing and branding exercise. Go beyond the traditional “get the message out” and concentrate on creating excitement and enthusiasm around the program. Use the organizational relevance statements to target your messaging to the audiences – the same message will not resonate with everyone! Contact center representatives will have a completely different view on a delay in a server delivery than the CIO, for example. Your plan must consider the differences in audience and WIIFMs (what’s in it for me) to appeal to each audience’s specific filters and priorities.
Make someone responsible for project communication. For a smaller effort, the project manager herself often takes on communication. For larger efforts, a communication manager becomes more important. Having a communication and change management team is common for big projects with correspondingly big changes. If no one is responsible, communication just won’t happen. Someone has to be accountable for making sure communication happens. Assign the responsibility and then follow up.
Don’t ignore multi-channel and omni-direction communication. Top-down is not enough anymore (if it ever was). Bottom-up and peer-to-peer, facilitated by internal wiki boards or social media, round out the communication plan. Establish a way for project members to raise issues, especially on large, complex initiatives – this will feed your plan. Plus, the more you use interesting and varied formats, the more likely people will consume the information and internalize what you’ve tried to tell them. People need to hear something seven (7!) times before they remember it.
Measure. People pay attention to what gets measured. Part of measuring is determining whether the intended message was received by the intended recipients. You might think you’ve told everyone that the efficiency project is about creating capability, but all anyone heard was job elimination. If you don’t check, and measure, you remain unaware of potential blockers to project success.
Of course, engage your sponsor and other leaders as appropriate messengers. Provide speaking points or a talk track to managers and peer leaders for consistency’s stake. There are a million handy, dandy tips and techniques for effective project communication as long as you actually have a tailored, multi-directional plan that someone is accountable to execute and measure.
NEOS has written a number of articles and whitepapers on communication and its close cousin, change management. You can access those resources here.