Communications planning involves identifying the information and communication needs of the stakeholders. This includes determining what needs to be communicated, to whom, when, with what method and how frequently. This is a very proactive approach. The PMBOK guide often suggests work to be done in a more structured way than many project managers previously thought to do. Hence, the guide emphasises a structured approach towards the art of project management. Communication is no exception. In order to do it well, one must understand the organisations environment such as culture and standards. One must also take into account the organisations processes and procedures for conducting work and communications, historical records from previous projects, lessons learned and stored information. This means that communications management is the whole process of end-end communication loops that involve feedback and other mechanisms as well.
It is important to realise that communication is not one-sided. During the early part of project planning, the project team would have had a chance to interact with other project stakeholders. This gives the project manager a chance to identify any potential risks and plan to meet with the stakeholders periodically to mitigate the risks. This would mean that a project communication plan has to be drawn up and the appropriate stakeholders identified. Project communications are both internal and external.
The internal communications are within the team and involve the project manager along with the team members. This can take the form of weekly team meetings, status updates and one-one meetings that chart the progress of the individual along with his or her concerns, if any. Internal communications are a good way of ensuring that all team members are in sync with the objectives of the project and that they know what is expected from them.
External communications refer to the processes that have to do with the project manager communicating the status updates to the project sponsors, identifying risks and changes to the bottom line of the project and meeting with the other stakeholders to resolve them to the satisfaction of everyone concerned. This is the external component of the communication process. An effective communication management plan takes into account the needs of the relevant stakeholders along with that of the project team.
Effective project management is the art of striking a balance between competing demands from the different stakeholders and ensuring that the bottom line objectives of the project are met. The practice of project management has to do with the way in which the project manager acts in unison along with the team members and delivers the project to the sponsors. The role of the project manager is that of a facilitator as well as an enabler. The facilitator role comes into the picture when the project manager has to balance the competing demands of the sponsors and the stakeholders and enabling role comes into play when the project manager has to motivate his or her team members and make sure that the project objectives are met.
In conclusion, effective project management is all about situational leadership without losing sight of the big picture. This is the bottom line towards which all project managers have to strive and something that the project manager must aspire towards.
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