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Communication For the Project Manager Part 2 (#2 in the series Communication For the Project Manager)
By Phil de Kock

The previous article dealt with the importance of communicating the vision and desired end state for a project, clearly and consistently as well as the need to communicate the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and stakeholder groupings, early in the project. The paragraphs that follow continue and highlight how progress, issues and closure of the project could be communicated.

The roadmap:

One of the most common problems in communication on projects is to refrain from translating the project plan into a clear, and understandable roadmap according to which progress and problems can be reported. Project teams tend to think that all stakeholders have the same knowledge and understanding about the project, and they can therefore just communicate the content of the baseline plan and progress in this regard.

Experience show however that stakeholder interest and support is significantly higher when the baseline plan is translated into a framework that everyone can relate to. One of the best examples in recent times is where a project team busy with an ERP system implementation decided to use a local marathon to explain the baseline plan, clarify roles and report on problems, their resolution as well as progress.

The participants in the “race” were the respective process champions as well as the project manager and sponsor. Their running styles were depicted to have a bearing on their roles in the roll out of the project.

Because it was a local marathon physical features and water points on route were related to specific milestones and deliverables. The “hardships” of the runners were related to problems and issues that required resolution.
The team also used paraphernalia to reward stakeholders for their support and participation.

Two examples in this regard are worth mentioning:

  • To entice people to log into the project website, read news and post questions etc, a loyalty program (similar to a frequent flyer program) was introduced. As you logged loyalty points you could redeem them by receiving small tokens like mugs with the project logo on them, t-shirts and even publications on ERP
  • When staff completed the training they received a high quality t-shirt with the project logo indicating that they are now “licensed drivers” of the relevant system.The above approach ensured ongoing participation of specifically the users, enthusiasm as well as ownership for the new system

Psychological closure:

With the above implementation the relevant team also realized that it is important to facilitate psychological closure with the old system. They therefore, in addition to a launch and celebration after Go Live, also arranged a session to formally say good bye to the old system prior to Go Live. This created a clear break with the old way of doing things and focused all involved toward the new.

Phil de Kock is an organization and management consultant with a career span of more than 20 years in several disciplines, including finance and admin, quality, project management as well as human and organization development.

His career development from a very junior level as a finance cashier to managing partner of a medium sized consulting firm is backed by sound growth and development at an academic level. Philip consequently has obtained a masters degree in people and organization development and is currently reading for his PhD. He is the co author of several publications and received awards for his post graduate academic achievements.

In addition to being visiting lecturer in project management he also trained more than 250 students in the relevant discipline during 2006/7. In addition, he published about and presented public courses dealing with ROI of Training, HR Scorecards, and Metrics as well as Job and Competency Profiling.

He consulted to various companies, including Namdeb (De Beers Namibia), Deb Marine, Anglo Base Metals (Skorpion Zinc) as well as public sector organization such as the Health Professions and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Council. His most recent work include lecturing on project management, leadership and Human Resources Management at the institutions that include the Centre for Learning, Training and Development (WITS University), Varsity College (ADVTECH Group Ltd) and Global Business School.

Phil runs a professional project management blog: Project Management For The Rest of Us.

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