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Simplifying Planning for Effective Communications Management

Simplifying Planning for Effective Communications Management. As a Project Manager, we face many challenges…but one of the most key challenges to overcome is the challenge of communication, not only with your team, but with your clients as well.

In projects we all know that the key planning tool to create project timelines are the GANTT Charts. Additionally there are other numerous tools available, most notably the MS Project or Primavera which are both exceptional tools.

From my experience in small projects and in large-scale infrastructure projects, the Client doesn’t always understand how to read such a chart.  In fact, it could be like trying to learn another language to them!  Because of this it can be quite difficult to present a plan which is spread over several pages. Even in the project team itself, usually the person in charge of planning knows the intricate details while the rest of the team may not have seen the planning or they are not up to date in detail the action items and time-frame for each item.

On top of all that, it is sometimes a challenge to keep the overall timeline up to date as it requires the frozen baseline and regular updates from the changes or delays.  The point is this; it is one thing to communicate a timeline to your team and quite another to communicate it to your clients.  In fact, it is as if we have to use two different styles of communication for each group of people.  In other words, as a project manager it is good to know your audience.

One key solution I have used is to reduce the information of a GANTT Chart into a single power point slide (and provide a 3 or 4 weeks rolling planning with specific sequence of works in order to discuss it during a one hour meeting with the Client) so to better create understanding on the Client’s end of things.

This simplifies the communication from complex planning and jargon-loaded information onto a one page presentation where the activities can be discussed and easily changed or added with information which suites the Client’s perspective. Because this is done in Power Point, it can be changed easily during the meeting, and printed out afterwards and attached to the minutes. All of this contributes to high efficiency (as you know, time is money).  If this is practiced on a weekly basis, it creates tremendous momentum with all the stakeholders involved as everyone is on the same page consistently.  And most importantly, everyone understands what is happening and by when it is supposed to happen.  In short, this powerpoint slide is project planning in lay-man terms.  And it is worked wonders for me personally.

In one of my projects as a PMC where I came in at a very late stage in this particular project, I started with only one slide in my first meeting with the Client. The simplified work sequence could be discussed and agreed upon so that we could proceed and so it commenced that way. Over the following week, I added two more slides for other work packages with the same principle of simplification. Due to this effort the Client could understand what was going to happen and made a positive decision to proceed with that sequence of work. Without this visualisation previously, work was agreed upon by the client and stakeholders without their understanding the work itself.  It caused a lot of confusion as well as time and money. With a few slides of simplified work sequences, key stakeholders understood the principles and a detailed work plan could be issued to the sub-contractors to proceed with the works.

Still, the MS Project or Primavera GANTT Charts are required, but it takes one step more to communicate these sometimes complex documents in a simple way to the Client.

In summary, simplification is required when working with certain Clients.  Having heavy jargon-rich conversations doesn’t give them the clarity they need to confidently agree with the plans and place their trust and vote of confidence in you as there PM.  Simplifying your presentation can work wonders and save time and money.  Wishing you effortless communication in all your PM endeavors!

Cheers,

Peter Wyss