6th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Process 10.1 Plan Communications Management: Tools and Techniques


It is sometimes said that 90% of what a project manager does on a project has to do with communications of one form or another.    The process of creating of a communications plan, therefore, is a very important process, and should be taken as seriously as the creation of a schedule or budget of a project.

This post covers the tools and techniques of this process of creating a Communications Management Plan.

10.1.2 Plan Communications Management:  Tools and Techniques

10.1.2.1 Expert Judgment

This, along with meetings (see paragraph 10.1.2.8 below), are generic tools and techniques in that they are used in practically all the planning processes that create management parts for the various knowledge areas on the project.   The areas of expertise that have to do with communication are listed on p. 369 of the PMBOK® Guide.

10.1.2.2 Communications Requirements Analysis

This technique takes the information regarding stakeholders from the stakeholder register and uses it to determine the information needs of the various stakeholders in terms of the type and format of information they need.   Part of the RACI (Responsible-Accountable-Consult-Inform) matrix for the stakeholders is who needs to be consulted in the case of a decision, and then who needs to be informed of the results of a decision.   This can be used to analyze which stakeholders need to be informed before and after any important meeting on the project.   Examples of the communication requirements are given on p. 370 of the PMBOK® Guide.

10.1.2.3 Communication Technology

Common methods used for information exchange and collaboration are established.   The factors that affect the choices of technology are listed on p. 370 of the PMBOK® Guide.

10.1.2.4 Communication Models

The model itself is pretty simple:

  • you have a sender who encodes the message
  • and then transmits the message via a communication model
  • you have a receiver who decodes the message

However, if the sender makes a mistake in encoding the message, if there is noise in the transmission, or if the receiver makes a mistake in decoding the message, then the communication may not be successful.   How does this translate into a practical way of insuring communications are successful?   You need to realize that you’re not just talking about hardware when you are dealing with “noise.”  You may be dealing with internal or subjective causes for the garbling of communication.

For example, there are four types of communication preference (this is not in the PMBOK® Guide, but included in this post as an example):   people who prefer to communicate in terms of

  • action (how does the information relate to what the receiver should do?)
  • facts (how does the information relate to what the receiver should know?)
  • people (how does the information relate to what the receiver should feel?)
  • process (how does the information relate to how the receiver should process it?)

People who use the action preference like to give practical bullet-points about what the person should do with the information.   People who use the facts preference like to give the larger context for the information.   People who use the people preference like to establish the relationship with the receiver so that the receiver will trust the information.   People who use the process preference like putting the message in a logical form so that it is easy for the receiver to connect it together.

In Toastmasters, you learn that you have certain preferences, but that your audience is made of people who may have different preferences.   For example, I prefer “facts” and “process” and I used to jump right in and give information to people without setting up any relationship with whom I was sending the information to.   People who have the “people” preference can interpret this as being brusque or rude.    On the other hand, people with the “facts” and “process” preference can see all of that relationship building as a waste of time.   I learned in Toastmasters that you cannot send information to another person without doing the necessary relationship building because in that case they simply don’t care about the information because they don’t know where you are coming from and you haven’t expressed any interest in why they should care about it.  How is it relevant to them?

After working on this preference for over a year, I did another assessment and my score for the “people” preference went way up:  I was able to send information in such a way that people who cared about this preference paid attention to it, and not just those who shared my particular preference.   My goal now is to include the “action” preference in my communications, especially when you are dealing with management, for whom all the theoretical information (what I normally like to send as part of the “facts” preference I have) is useless unless it leads to practical, concrete action.

In any case, this is an example of how you can use a communication model to increase your power to get the message across to everybody on your team.

10.1.2.5 Communication Methods

The three basic types of communication are

  • interactive communication (when you interact with team members at a meeting, for example)
  • push communication (when you send an e-mail out to team members with important information)
  • pull communication (when you put information on a website that team members can access as they see fit)

The various other sub-types of communication and individual communication methods are listed on p. 373 of the PMBOK® Guide.

10.1.2.6 Communication Styles Assessment

This is alluded to in my paragraph on communication models (see paragraph 10.1.2.4 above) but it basically is an analysis of the preferred communication method for stakeholders, which allows you to tailor your communication to their needs more effectively.

Political awareness of the relationships within the organization and cultural awareness of the differences between individuals is very helpful for a project manager.   For cultural awareness, I recommend the book The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business by Erin Meyer.

10.1.2.7 Data Representation

A stakeholder engagement assessment matrix can help in determining the level of engagement of a stakeholder

  • Unaware
  • Resistant
  • Neutral
  • Supportive
  • Leading

You find out where they are at the beginning of the project and you show what level of engagement you are trying to influence them to be during the course of the project.   This level of engagement depends on whether they are interested in the project and/or whether they themselves have influence in the organization.

10.1.2.8 Meetings

Like “expert judgment”, meetings are a generic tool and technique used in all planning processes for various knowledge areas.   However, in the context of this process, this means setting the “ground rules” for project meetings so that they are effective (so they get the work done) and efficient (so that they don’t waste people’s time).

The next post deals with the outputs of this process.

 

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