We have always thought that the topic of "communications" in projects has been sadly under-represented. True it has always been a part of the Project Management Body of Knowledge since the beginning, but that description was limited to planning, organizing, commanding, directing, and controlling communication together with the processes, skills and styles for performing these activities. To whom the communications were to be made was touched on briefly, but essentially focused on the immediate project environment in which the communications were to take place.
Early in the PMBOK study phase it was intended that the topic should also encompass information management, i.e. storage and retrieval of data for example. This vital area for efficient management of a project unfortunately never happened. Today, five iterations later, the PMBOK® Guide still does not deal with the essential work of information storage and retrieval beyond a passing mention. Instead, it has expanded Project Communications Management in detail and rigor as a system, but principally on the what-and-when of project-driven reporting.
However, the Fifth Edition has introduced a whole new section, Project Stakeholder Management, where project stakeholders are the recipients of the aforementioned communications. The general thrust of these new texts is heavily process driven but still focused principally on those directly involved in the project. That is, even though the term "stakeholder" is defined broadly and used liberally, the major thrust still appears to be on informing project sponsors, team members and suppliers of goods and services.
So, looking for a more worldview of the subject, we embarked on author Ann Pilkington's book, Communicating Projects, with great anticipation. To give some idea of the approach taken by this author, a couple of extracts from the Foreword by Mary McKinlay are worth Quoting:
"In the past few weeks I have attended conferences and heard a variety of speakers talking about the problems that Chief Executive Officers regard as most pressing. Top of the list comes 'Management of Change' and when we explore why this is so difficult, the issue is one of keeping people informed and persuading them to co-operate"
"Every staff survey that is produced in companies around the world has a major theme in the results: 'Nobody keeps us informed, we are not consulted'." [Emphasis added]
The implication is that the workforce and others have not been given the opportunity to ask questions, to provide their feedback, and to satisfy themselves that they have been listened to.
Right off the bat, author Ann Pilkington contemplates a project role of "project communicator" which she introduces in the first paragraph of her Preface as follows:
"It is acknowledged widely that good communication is important to project success but what does good communication look like? This book sets out to answer this question with guidance that will be useful for the project manager and the project communicator." [Emphasis added]
Ann adds that large-scale projects probably have the luxury of experienced
people available as and when needed. However, on smaller projects communications
may be the responsibility of just one person, possibly without previous experience.
As she says:
"This presents a serious risk to project success, particularly when communication is viewed as a one-way activity that is more about 'sending stuff out' than true two-way engagement with stakeholders."
However, Ann acknowledges that:
"Of course it will never be possible to please all of the stakeholders all of the time, but an understanding of how people process communication will help."
About the author
Ann Pilkington moved from a career in journalism into press and public relations with major blue chip companies including British Telecom, the Automobile Association, The Woolwich and Barclays bank. She left Barclays o teach and pursue a freelance career in change communications on major programs within the public sector. Subsequently, she co-founded PR Academy that provides education and training for communicators. She teaches a range of courses covering internal and external communications and also provides consultancy services.
1. Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), Project Management Institute, Inc., PA, USA, 1987
2. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., PA, USA, 2013, pp 287-308
3. In the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) Fifth Edition, "Stakeholder" is defined as: "An individual, group, or organization who may affect, be affected by, or perceived itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of the project." Glossary p563
4. Mary McKinlay FAPM, Trustee and Board Member APM, Adjunct Professor, SKEMA France
5. Pilkington, Ann, Communicating Projects An End-to-End Guide to Panning, Implementing, and Evaluating Effective Communication, Gower Publishing Limited, Surrey, England, 2013, Foreword, p xi
6. Ibid, p xiii