Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Tools of Communication – Part 2 (2)

The Risk and Issues List – Redux
I have received a number of comments on my blogs. One comment was about vision and how to instill it in the project team. I intend to address this topic in a future blog. I will also be writing about delivering bad news in a future blog.
 In my last blog, I discussed the Risk and Issues List as the best document to communicate items in the project to the project members and stakeholders. One of the comments I received was to expound my views on how to present the risks and issues. Basically, this person believes that communication is sometimes the great equalizer of the actual content and that management never likes surprises. I couldn’t agree more that management never likes surprises and that communication is not only the equalizer, but the main reason why projects fail. So the way a Project Manager (PM) communicates this document to management is critical.
Communicating the Risk and Issues List
The most common ways to communicate the Risk and Issues list are: 1) via email and 2) in the actual status meeting. The mistake PMs make is that these are the only two ways they communicate the Risk and Issues list.  Earlier I mentioned that management NEVER likes surprises. A common mistake that PMs make is that they believe that everyone reads their emails. If a PM must communicate bad news, especially an issue from the Risk and Issues List, the PM must first discuss the message with their management and then the project sponsor. These may be two different types of communication, so let’s take them one at a time.  
Delivering the Risk and Issues List to the PM’s Management
Let’s face it, the PM’s Management is more concerned about the status report and that it stays green or on course.  However, as I mentioned before, probably the more important document is the Risk and Issues List. The two documents should refer to each other and be presented as one: the status report as the summary document relating to the project and the Risk and Issues List regarding any risk or issue. If it’s a risk, the status report can refer to it by mentioning it when summarizing the phase the project is in (initial, project planning, execution, control, or close). If it’s an issue, then the issue on the Risk and Issues List must be well documented and self-explanatory. This makes it easier for management to understand and to react if the project sponsor calls on the PM’s Manager. This is the most important communication the PM has in a project: ensuring that his management is fully informed and armed with the correct message.

Delivering the Risk and Issues List to the Project Sponsor Prior to the Status Meeting
Prior to the project status meeting, the PM may want to have a separate meeting with the project sponsor if there is an issue that needs to be explained in detail. This isn’t always bad news, but if not treated and delivered properly by the PM, it can easily become bad news quickly. What I mean by this is that sometimes an email cannot communicate the issues properly and the project sponsor may not understand the communication from the PM. I strongly suggest that the PM speak to the sponsor one-on-one, preferably in person, or schedule a separate call with the sponsor prior to the status meeting.  With this communication, the PM can fully explain the issue or risk properly and not “blind side” the sponsor.
What the Risk and Issue List Can’t Communicate
The Risk and Issue List cannot communicate the status of the project, which is my next blog. I do expect more comments on this blog and as I have done in this blog, make your comments another blog topic. Thanks again to the person who made this comment on communicating the Risk and Issues List.  If you would prefer to email me instead of leaving a comment, please do so at Benny A. Recine.

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