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Communication Structure: 5 practical ways to improve project comms

How being practical will improve your communications game.

Part #2 of the Communicating with Purpose Series.

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

In my last article, Communication Clarity, we looked at the problems assumptions can create within a project, and how to avoid making them. 

The next element of communicating with purpose, is to structure which way you communicate so you can get the most out of every interaction with your project team and stakeholders.  

For communication to be consistently effective, it needs to be practical. And practicality comes from structure. 

Communication needs to have a purpose

It goes without saying that communication on projects is based around what needs to be done, who is going to do it and when it needs to be completed.

While these are, of course important, several other factors will influence the answers to each of these questions.

The first of these factors, is to have a purpose. And to have a purpose, you need a goal. These are relevant to the whole of your project – communication is no exception to the rule.

The goal for project communication is to have the entire project team and stakeholder group see the value in wanting to communicate and feel that it will positively contribute to achieving a successful project.

To achieve this type of communication culture, it’s critical to know what you need to achieve when you’re talking to someone. While simple conversation tactics may work in a social setting, on a project, not having a clear goal for each conversation can cause delays, risks and cost blowouts.

The key is having a structure to the way in which you communicate.

Let’s look at a structured way we can:

  • Help communication to be valued
  • Make communication practical
  • Create a culture where communication positively contributes to achieve successful projects consistently and effectively.

Knowing what information to gather can seem daunting and overwhelming but it doesn’t need to be!

I’ve developed a proven framework of elements and questions to help project professionals form more structure when requesting and receiving information.

In my Project Elevator Training Program this is known as the 5 elements of a strategy (5ES – or 5 ee’s).

The 5ES framework is intended to help project teams develop the most effective, feasible and valued project strategy for delivering powerful projects. And developing a powerful strategy is all about gathering clear, succinct, and structured information.

The 5ES framework addresses 5 key elements which every project needs to consider.  These also happen to be the areas which suffer the most common assumptions.

They are:  Information, People, Technicality, Process and Timing.

For each of these categories, the aim is to understand what the team and key stakeholders need and expect in order to deliver a successful project.

The most important thing to consider when diving into these elements is not to immediately go into problem solving mode!

It is far more important to understand the knowns, unknowns, problems, or gaps in the way they are intended by the person delivering the information. Starting with a holistic and clearer picture will narrow down the most effective and valued solution.

Let’s look at each of the 5ES in more detail.

1. Element of Information

What information will the project require to deliver on its commitments?

Information will include documents, knowledge, consistent definitions and terminology, as well as information to or from external factors.

2. Element of People

Once you have identified the information you need from the Information element, it will start to outline the people you need to speak to.

In the people element we consider all those potentially impacted and how they are impacted. We also workshop who should be engaged, why they should be engaged and the most efficient way to achieve this.

3. Element of Technicality

Technical elements encourage the team to consider all the technical tools, functions, equipment, and expertise required to deliver the project.

These can include hardware, licenses, applications, security requirements, and skills just to name a few.

4. Element of Process 

Process elements look at what the team needs to understand about current and future processes required to develop and deliver a valued project

5. Element of Timing

What are the time considerations that could positively or negatively impact the outcome of the project?

These can include the best times to start or rollout the project, stakeholder operation times and public holidays.

When addressing each element, you should consider:

  • The knowledge needed and where it should come from
  • What happens now versus 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
  • Will we be supported in our mission or message
  • A directive from a key stakeholder is agreed by all other stakeholders

Where to record project information

Every project team will have their own process for recording project information. The most important thing is that the information is being captured and tracked somewhere!

My personal preference is to track this information within the project communications plan, with a separate spreadsheet that captures the answers to the 5 elements.

If you need a communications plan template, you’ll find one here on my website that includes a sheet to record the 5 elements of a strategy and a list of suggested questions to ask.

The information you gather might also need to be tracked in other relevant project documentation, such as within your business case, project plan or RAID Register.

Up next: 5-Steps to the Right Information

In the next part of the Communicating with Purpose series, we’ll break down each of the 5 elements of a strategy and look at questions we can ask to drive clarity and open the doors to richer and more informed communication. 

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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