This is easiest to identify when there is no communication plan at all. Alternatively, there may be a plan, but the plan is inadequate for the project. The reasons for this are many. Maybe leaders don’t see the need to communicate it (even though it’s a major implementation). Because knowledge is power, some are reluctant to share information and therefore give away power. Communication that includes a potentially negative message is particularly problematic, even though not delivering bad news and hoping no one notices is never a good strategy. When there are negative elements, it is even more critical to manage the message. Occasionally, leaders believe that employees, vendors, customers or other stakeholders “won’t understand” and therefore should not have access to the information. At times, it’s a simple matter of underestimating the impact of the project.
Solution: Make communications a key component of your project plan. Include someone from the communications department (the higher up, the better) very visibly on your project team. Give them time on the agenda to set forth a communication plan. Be persistent.
Even when a communication plan is in place, it can still fail because it underestimates the need for information or overestimates the impact of minor communications. If you hear “Sure they know about it – we mentioned it once in that staff meeting four months ago”, you know the communication plan is not stellar.
Solution: Make sure your communication plan is robust and considers the impact on all stakeholders, especially operations, well in advance of the implementation date. Get enough out there early for them to react to – this will prompt your next set of communication messages. Include information that you know stakeholders will want to hear, not just what you want to say, even if it’s uncomfortable.
Be aware of these indications that you may have incommunicado communications:
- Hesitation to communicate anything that isn’t “nailed down”, such as the implementation date.
- Changing meaningful language in draft communications to “corporate speak” that conveys little.
- Missing deadlines for communication launches.
- Failure to address any negative impact of your project.