President’s Corner – Check it out!!  

                              CindyV.png

     Plan your communications with your "WINS" in mind

     August 2020

 

 

Many years ago, I spent some time as an independent consultant.  Those were some very challenging and interesting years.  Along with consulting engagements, my business partner and I spoke at conferences, taught project management courses, and maintained a blog series.  Occasionally one of my blog articles would be picked up in a publication such as PMHut, ExecutiveBrief, or ProjectSmart.  We co-presented a paper at the 2010 PMI Global Congress called The Public Relations of Project Management.  Thereafter, I did a series of blog articles with themes from that presentation.  I’d like to share one of those with you this month. 

As with all things, preparing for a successful outcome with communications and public relations on a project starts with a good plan.  Creating a communication plan for your project helps you identify who your stakeholders are and what the unique communication requirements are of each constituency.  If you have stakeholders in different locations who will participate in meetings, you probably need to consider virtual meeting technologies such as the use of web tools that allow you to share documents real time to virtual audiences, as well as conference calling tools, for example.  You should also consider the different levels of detail and frequency of updates required by different audiences.  Some of the basic elements required in any communication plan include:

(Each item documented in communication plan should describe the following at a minimum)

Purpose

What is the intent of the piece of the communication - meeting/report/presentation (i.e. to inform; to train; to gather information; to distribute status; )

Audience

Who is the intended recipient(s) (what level; internal/external to organization; internal/external to project team)

Type

What is the nature of the piece of communication - meeting/report/presentation

Frequency

How often should this be delivered?

Day/Date of Occurrence

What day/time  of week/month is it scheduled

Duration

For meetings – how long does it last

Owner

Who is responsible?

Format

How is this delivered?  For meetings, what conferencing and virtual meeting tools are used?  For reports, what tools are used to prepare and distribute the report?  Any other formatting specifications.

 

Some of the obvious things that are usually captured in communications plans are:

  1. Weekly team status meetings
  2. Weekly status reports
  3. Executive steering committee meetings
  4. Stakeholder communication briefings
  5. Change control board meetings

Planning for these types of recurring communication events is a given to keep everyone apprised of progress and status.   

But now, let’s raise the bar.   Let’s face it; project management has a bad reputation.   Too many projects never seem to get completed successfully, or at least the ones we hear about anyway.   Could that be because the ones that get all the publicity are the ones in trouble?  You know the ones I’m talking about – the ones that are in flames until someone swoops in and does something herculean like pulling an all night’er or all weekend effort; or some team has to practically bring cots and camp out at work for a few weeks to pull things out of the ditch.  If you think about the most successful projects you’ve been associated with in the past, the ones that click along like clockwork, they’re usually so quiet no one even knows they happen.  I believe that’s because they are an accumulation of many small successes that by themselves, seem too small to talk about, but accumulate to make a winning outcome.  The real heroes are those team members who can perform their duties according to plan with high quality, and low drama, day in and day out.  Sadly, all too often that type of effort never gets enough credit.  The team members may get the credit individually in performance reviews, but the project doesn’t get the notoriety or PR benefit.

We need to create ways to herald these small “wins” and outline them in the communications plan.  This may take some forethought or preparation to set up beforehand.  You may be able to arrange for real estate on your intranet to publish weekly installments of progress reports.  If not, you can devote space on your project site or repository and open it up to stakeholders.  You may want to consider creating a project bulletin board, or area such as a “Victory Corner”, or create a project blog.  Or maybe in your environment you need to go non electronic by posting signs on break room walls.  Consider what works best for your environment and organizational culture.   Decide on who is responsible for updating these vehicles and at what frequency, what events will trigger their updates, and document in the communications plan.  Consider these opportunities for recognizing and capturing wins:

  • Schedule Milestones –As important milestones are achieved, be sure to point this out and credit the team responsible.
  • Quality Objectives - Throughout the project quality goals will be measured and as they are achieved either through the use of automated or manual tests, these are also great things to herald with testimony if available to add a human perspective.
  • Risk Management – As risks captured on the risk register get closed, advertise this in your PR vehicles. This is some of the most important work you can do to achieve success on your project.
  • Issue Management – As large or key issues get closed out, these are also great things to recognize.
  • Tollgate Phase Reviews – At the end of a project phase, it is a good practice to conduct a phase review in order to receive approval from your sponsors or steering committee to move forward. This usually involves a facilitated process where votes and comments are tallied and captured.  When done correctly, this can be a great teambuilding experience regardless of the decision because the facilitator ends by soliciting comments on the work effort.   There are almost always positive comments issued about the efforts of the team and these make wonderful material for positive PR.
  • Lessons Learned sessions – The positive lessons are of course great PR material, but even the negative lessons can be spun in a positive way. They are mistakes that won’t be repeated in the future and can have significant as well as quantifiable benefits - such as cost savings, increased productivity, more efficient procedures, safer environment, or improved employee morale.

Recognizing the small wins is a great way to give credit to the people who deserve it and draw attention to successful projects that get otherwise overlooked.  So, as you wear your chief PR officer hat on your project, look for accomplishments and advertise them promptly as they happen.  It may very well be what keeps your project or engagement funded.

 

I hope to see you all at a chapter event soon…

Cindy