Project managers make decisions all the time. It’s part of the job. In fact, it is much of the job. Decision-making is an ongoing task on every project engagement. Key decisions have to be made throughout by everyone including the project manager, the project team members, the customer, executive management, and usually other stakeholders. They may be as simple as when to hold a meeting or as difficult as making a go- no-go decision on a phase of the project or the entire project.
What we often lack when making some key decisions is the right information at the right time. We all know that making what seems to be the right decision based on information that ends up being inaccurate or out of date can be fatal to the project. What if you could only make decisions on when to cross the street based on a snapshot taken five minutes ago? Would this help? Would you have any confidence in whether or not you should cross the street? After all, it could be a life or death decision.
Well, that’s often how organizations are continually making business and technology decisions. Many decisions we make on projects are based on what we knew two days ago or two weeks ago or what someone told us last Thursday. Ideally, information would be flowing to all key personnel constantly and we would be making key business, project, and technology decisions based on what we just learned – not what we knew last week. What if you could make sense of what you learn as fast as you learn it and put that into play?
The project manager has to be the focal point for all communication on the project. Given that, there are some things that can be put into place that will help ensure that the right information is getting to the right people as quickly as possible. And that, in turn, should help ensure that the project decisions that are made are based on the most relevant and accurate information possible.
Let’s consider these…
Create a communication plan
The key to getting all of this communication off on the right foot is to publish a communication plan for the project at the outset. Produce this document shortly after kickoff and let it document and set the tone for all communication that will flow on the project. This document will correctly set expectations of how, when, where and through who communication will happen.
Make sure the PM is the central communication point
Communication is key and is probably the most critical function that the project manager performs. The PM must be responsible for all project communication and the best way to make that happen is to be sure to funnel all communication through the PM. Set that tone in the project communication plan mentioned above and stick to it.
Distribute revised project schedules at least weekly
At a minimum, the project schedule needs to be revised and redistributed on a weekly basis to all key project personnel. However, anytime there is a major issue or action that affects the project and the schedule, the project plan must also be updated and redistributed at that point as well – even if that is sometimes daily during critical points in the project.
Conduct weekly status meetings and distribute a status report
As part of that project communication responsibility, the PM must be consistent and thorough in producing weekly status reports and holding weekly status meetings – both internally with his project team and with both teams together on a joint call or meeting session.
Project communication is happening all the time. It is the project manager who must be in control of what is happening with the project. Therefore it is of utmost importance that project information must flow through a central point – the project manager. And this communication must be current, relevant, and clear so that all team members, the customer and key stakeholders are on the same page and up to date at all times so that good decisions can be made and the best input for those decisions can be received from those of importance to the project’s success.