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Communication Success: 5-steps to the right project info

The questions you should ask to find out what you need to know.

Part #3 of the Communicating with Purpose Series.

This is the third of a 5-part series where I guide you through the different elements to more effective project communication.  If you haven’t yet, check out the series intro article, Communicating with Purpose: The 5 elements of successful communication.


In the last article, Communication Structure, we looked at how having a clear structure for the way you approach project communication is essential to success.

I also shared my framework for communication structure – the 5 Elements of a strategy (5ES) – to help you develop a powerful strategy for requesting and receiving information.

I teach the 5ES in my Elevator Training Program. By targeting the five key areas of a project – Information, People, Technicality, Process and Timing – you’ll become more confident, be clearer when engaging stakeholders and find more support for your project.

Once you’re familiar with the 5ES, the next step is to learn how to ask questions that really matter, in a way that removes project assumptions.

Let’s break down each of the elements and look at questions we can ask to drive clarity, and open the doors to richer and more informed communication.

Practical ways to ask questions so we remove assumptions

For each of the 5ES, the aim is to discover the needs and expectations of both the project team and project stakeholders, in order to achieve project success.  

The most important thing to consider when diving into the Information, People, Technicality, Process and Timing elements, is to not immediately go into problem solving mode! It’s far more important to understand the knowns, unknowns, problems, or gaps in the way they are intended by the person delivering the information.  

Considerations for each element

For each element the considerations should include:

  • The knowledge needed and where it should come from
  • What happens now vs what will happen post the project
  • The anticipated impacts of the project
  • What is required to mitigate or minimise the impact
  • The needs from within the business and the needs external to the business

Questions we can ask to remove assumptions. 

Before meeting with anyone, it’s important to consider the Why? of the project to determine what you need to deliver.

Using your list of project deliverables, run through each of the 5ES and brainstorm a list of all the things you need to have, done, create, change, remove, and address. This list will be the start of the questions you will discuss with your stakeholders.   

At times the aim will be to confirm a belief. Other times it will be to request or accept information. It’s important that even when you believe you know the answer, to always have the information confirmed by your stakeholders. For tips on how to remove assumptions, check out the first article in this series.

Your 5ES Question Cheat Sheet

To get you started, here are some questions you should ask for each of the 5ES

Element of Information
  • What information will recipients of the project need, to accept the project
  • What external factors should be considered (e.g. contractual obligations, legal requirements, etc)
  • What are the current business processes, knowledge, rules and terminology which should be known to the project to plan an accurate solution?

Element of People

  • Who will be the recipient of the project’s change?
  • Who will be impacted and how?
  • What are the required roles on the project?

Element of Technicality

  • What are the technical needs to start and deliver the project e.g., hardware, software, licenses?
  • What system changes are anticipated including mitigations e.g., Change of infrastructure, new responsibilities, new automated processes?
  • Will the project have an impact on Business as Usual (BAU) technical activities e.g., Transport, service, configurations

Element of Process

  • What processes should be known to start and deliver the project e.g. an induction process?
  • What existing processes will / may need to change or be impacted e.g. How work is accepted / delivered / recorded, how customers are engaged?
  • Who will be accountable for new processes?

Element of Timing 

  • Does the project need to be delivered by a specific date? Why?
  • Are there any times stakeholders and project members will not be available (such as public holidays or leave)?
  • Are there any shutdowns or outages that may impact the planned delivery dates?

Capturing Answers in a Communications Plan

A Communications Plan is a great place to capture the information you collect when answering the questions for each of the 5ES.

The Projecting with People Communications Plan Template features a section dedicated to the 5ES and walks you through the questions from each element, step-by-step.

We’ll look at how to use a Communications Plan in more detail in the next article of this series.

Up next:

In the next part of the Communicating with Purpose series, we’ll uncover who you should communicate with on your project and how to create effective and purposeful interactions.

Are you ready to level up your communication to deliver more powerful projects?

In addition to giving you the keys to effective project communication, each article in this 5-part series will suggest documented resources you can use to make sure your communication remains effective.

You’ll find a full list of Projecting with People resources in my online shop here.

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