The Right Information For the Right People

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Categories: Communication


My last post highlighted the challenges of designing a project communication system that works. Now I will try to suggest a few solutions.

To quote Peter Taylor's book, The Lazy Project Manager, "Reporting is not communicating." Executives don't have time to read fantastically accurate and detailed reports--people are simply too busy to take that kind of deep dive.

But at least some of that detail is important.

My suggestions to resolve this conundrum are:

•    Separate push and pull communications. Make the detail available in a repository such as a project portal) where people who need the detail can easily retrieve it (pull). Anything you send out (push) should focus on the highlights and information that requires action.

•    Separate history from future. Reporting what happened last week is of no value to the project unless it contains information that will influence future decisions. Historical data is needed by accountants and business administrators. project leaders and team members need information that is forward-looking, focusing on what might happen in the future and what needs to be done to improve the situation.

•    Focus on the needs of the receivers. Make sure you give your audience the information they need to help make the project successful. Team members need to know what work to do in the next week or two. Managers need to know what they have to decide.

Achieving this type of communication requires planning and information design. Each element of the overall controls system needs to be elegantly designed to support both management decision-making and the work of the project.

More importantly, the communication effort needs to focus on the important stakeholders who influence success: both internally to leaders within the team and externally to decision makers and influencers. (More on this later.)

And remember Cohn's Law: The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything. Stability is achieved when you spend all your time reporting on the nothing you are doing.
Posted by Lynda Bourne on: August 06, 2009 05:46 PM | Permalink

Comments

Vijay Shah
Good point. One more item I would add is: Be accessible to people who do not understand the information you provided. Some time on a quick conf. call can speed up the understanding process.

Anna
Thank you, Lynda. This is very helpful!

Hitesh Bhatt
Communication is the key, and getting it to the right people is an art.The above write-up has stirred interesting debate within our group leading to introspection and process improvement. Kind Regards, Hitesh Bhatt, PMP

Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist, PMP
Great post highlighting this critical aspect of project management. I suggest an additional approach for effective communication very much in the spirit of your blog title.

The success of anyone is determined by their ability to make good decisions. Good data enables good decision-making. Knowing what decisions folks need to make to succeed will enable you to determine if you have the data they need to make those decisions. Communicate that data, and they will love you.

Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist
http://community.ca.com/blogs/theitgovernanceevangelist/

R. Max Wideman
Lynda Bourne provides valuable insight in her recommendations - especially her three bullets, the middle of which states "Project leaders and team members need information that is forward-looking, focusing on what might happen in the future and what needs to be done to improve the situation." Exactly so. May I suggest that most standard project management reports be amended accordingly? So, I just love her by-line: "Cohn's Law: The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything [until] you spend all your time reporting on the nothing you are doing." But at least you can also report on the nothing that anyone else is doing either!

Cliff Brandon
Thanks Lynda for a thoughtful assessment of solutions for effective communications. I believe there might be another approach to consider.

We often consider the project manager as the nexus for compilation and communication of facts about projects. Actually, much of the compilation can and should be done by the organization as much of the project information already exists in digital form at the organizational level.

Using this approach has two major advantages: 1) it relieves the PM from many 'clerical' duties and makes them more available to lead the project(s), and 2) It creates positive feedback loops in the organization.

Planning, project progress tracking, and historic information are available from the same resource.

If you want to read more about how this works please visit me at http://www.asaservices.biz


Moataz Yousif
Very important point, thanks Lynda. And I agree with Vijay as well especially in the organizations with low project management maturity.

Yogish Kumar
Thanks Lynda, this is a great tip.
I would like to add one more to this list: that updates on how we are doing against the plan and the next activities the team should perform be sent out regularly (once a week) to keep the team informed and alert on the activities that can cause harm to the projects in the near future.
Regards,
--Yogish

June
This is a great article and I strongly agree with Steve’s comment ‘â€쳌Good data enables good decision-makingâ€쳌 Yet, in my experience as a PM good and well communicated data is critical. Yet what can really damage a project’s success regardless of the quality of the data (needed to CYA) but the 'unidentified stakeholders'. The most time consuming task as a PM aside from hidden agendas and establishing relationships of trust with Projects Stakeholder(s) but is with what I call the ‘transparent stakeholder(s)’. They are not directly included in the decision making process yet have the ability to negatively impact both your project and your reputation. It is equally important to establish a line of communication with these individuals without undermining authority. Wow what a job!

Monica
Thank you Lynda, this is a great article. I do think that reporting past activities to stakeholders is has somehow a psychological value (proving that what you planned the week before actually happened as planned will reassure stakeholders in the capacity to move forward according to plan).

Michel Operto
Thank you Lynda, here is a translation for your French readers. Pour les Francophones: http://dantotsupm.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/les-bonnes-informations-aux-bonnes-personnes-%E2%80%93-the-right-info-for-the-right-people/

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