It is of crucial importance to any project manager to work closely with stakeholders – relevant people affiliated with your project whose opinions and actions will directly impact the project outcome. I label it “crucial” because of the whopping 30% of projects that experience failure due to poor communication.
Establishing ground rules for effective stakeholders communication will save time, remove obstacles and ultimately, finish the project on time and within budget. There are several communication methods you should implement when communicating with stakeholders in your company. All methods of communication described below have their upsides and downsides, so make sure you pick the right one depending on the message you are trying to send to your stakeholders.
Schedule a meeting
Stakeholder meetings are the most common communication method in place for corporations, especially since they can save time in conveying the message to a large number of people. Best ways to communicate the message would be PowerPoint, Prezi or any of the mind mapping software solutions available online. Being in the same room with stakeholders should avoid misinterpretation issues.
However, beware that with growing distributed teams, scheduled meetings are becoming a thing of the past. With growing online platforms that ensure real-time transparency, clients are no longer passive consumers of information. Delivering periodic reports without continuous communication will not cut it anymore.
Send out a newsletter
Using the company’s intranet or collaboration platform already in place, you can act proactively and define a newsletter to be sent out to stakeholders at given time periods. It can be great for including even stakeholders who are not directly involved with your project. Beware that e-mail is a one-way communication channel, so you should avoid it for issues that require immediate feedback.
Separate online “screen to screen” meetings
As time-consuming as they can be separate face to face meetings are the best way to get the message across stakeholders. Not everyone responds to your presentation style equally, so by meeting stakeholders separately, you can address their concerns in more detail and with greater control. Of course, again, as a result of the graphically dispersed teams and the growing trend of including independent contractors in projects “screen to screen” is becoming the new “face to face”, since so many of the meetings are held via online communication and collaboration platforms. Having a presentation is optional; you are better off focusing on the dialogue.
Project summary report
Project summary reports are usually sent out in predefined periods (weekly, monthly). The protocol is already agreed upon here, so if your project is running on time and within budget, you should not have any concerns. Backed up with data and statistics you should highlight the top performing parts of your project and reassure the stakeholders you have the situation in control.
Schedule a conference call
Conference calls are most commonly used in situations where the issue is too urgent for a meeting. So whenever you feel there is an obstacle that needs to be resolved immediately you can schedule a conference call, which can be arranged in the matter of minutes/hours. Have in mind that conference calls are better for one way communication so it would be a good idea to have an agenda prepared before the conference call starts.
Lunch meetings would fall into the informal communication category of stakeholders meetings. They would be a great idea for getting honest feedback or getting stakeholders to sign off on a particular idea you have in mind. Have in mind that informal meetings can be just as effective as the official ones.
Stefan Jordev is e-business management MSc and marketing specialist for Seavus’ Project Viewer. Passionate about project management & mind mapping, he is constantly looking for ways to innovate and combine these two. He is a regular contributor to 4 project management blogs and has written over a dozen e-books on the subject.