Having returned from two weeks leave and received a copy of “The Project Management Communications Toolkit”, I decided to use it to find the best method of the project team communicating progress updates whilst I’d been away.
Inevitably, I’d been on the BlackBerry keeping an eye on things as we all do in the modern tele-communications world but wanted a more detailed position. As I searched the book without success a number of calls and E-mails came through leaving me fully up to speed (the power of an engaged, motivated team!).
I therefore took an overview of the book and delved into key sections. The initial chapter focuses on the nature of project communications highlighting that the goal is to create common understanding at the right depth for each individual. It encourages consistent formats and the PM to be a “communications facilitator”- deciding the roles, model, medium, selecting the right tools then testing to check the messages are received.
Chapter 2 gives an overview of technology and media that can be used to transmit the tools and templates whilst recognising the pace of change in this area! It outlines both the benefits and potential pitfalls of PM software to E-mail to project web-sites to audio technology and traditional written & verbal communications.
The main section of the book then takes a stage-by-stage look at communication tools based on the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge: Initiation; Planning; Executing; Controlling; Closing. The purpose, application, content, approaches and considerations for each selected tool are discussed in detail. This is supported by a CD with templates which offer useful support to reduce workload when creating a tool.
The closing remarks identify the need to implement the tools correctly for them to be effective and with consideration of the culture in which they are used. It also determines that the written forms need to be supported by verbal communication. A final point is to evaluate the effectiveness of the communication: was the message received and understood!
In summary, this is a reference book that is ideally used by new PMs and organisations developing their overall project approach. Large organisations tend to have their own processes, tools, templates, people and media in place as part of business as usual. The book is thought-provoking; for example, the creation of a prototype would not automatically spring to mind as a communication method.
Advances in social media are changing the way people communicate and thus projects are being delivered, from online customer-centred vehicle design to organisations such as “The Yorkshire Mafia” being created and becoming a community who regularly meet and create business opportunities.
The possibilities for innovation and change seem endless and this text will need regular reviews to remain up-to-date and useful at the cutting edge of project management communications.
Reviewed by guest contributor Daniel Yates, November 2010