The role of the project manager is one of communications facilitator. That does not mean he or she sends all of the communications. It means that the project manager is responsible for ensuring that communications are sent, received, and (to the degree possible) understood. To accomplish that, the project manager can identify preferred communications modes for the critical stakeholders, assess the best means to enable those modes, and ensure the integrity of the process as the project continues.
To identify preferred communications modes, the project manager should assess a representative sample of the project's stakeholders. In a small project, this may be done by interviews. In larger projects, this may be accomplished by surveys. The process and questions are discussed further in the section on the communications plan tool (Chapter 4).
Once the communications modes have been identified, the next task in the communications plan—enabling those communications modes—is critical. The project manager may need to establish e-mail protocols or telephone voice-mail etiquette. He or she may need to invest time and energy in constructing a project Web site or "virtual community" on the local-area network (LAN). He or she may need to identify the specific tools to be used (and tools to be avoided) based on customer and team needs. Regardless of the choice of technology or approach, guidance needs to be established to ensure consistent application. Without consistency, communications will eventually break down.
To ensure the integrity of the process, the project manager must test the system occasionally to ensure that messages are being received and understood. In one training organization, the president would occasionally plant brief, bizarre messages deep in his memoranda to test whether or not the entire message was being received. He learned that only a handful of his staff were really reading the entire document, and he changed his protocols as a result. The project manager who communicates well will find ways to test the integrity of the system, both in terms of message receipt and understanding. Just because an e-mail is marked as "received" doesn't ensure that it was actually read or understood. Validation through spot-checks is a reasonable means of working to improve the quality of message as it moves from sender to receiver. Talking to the senders about feedback and receivers about the messages is a first step toward identifying potential gaps.
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.