1. Reassess Your Project Stakeholders for Better Communications
Depending on the length of a project, it may be necessary to check back with your stakeholders to see if there are any new contacts or if any need to be dropped from your communications plan for various reasons. This very well might prevent future issues where people are left out of the communications loop and then come forward with questions that turn into “issues.” I would recommend reassessing the communication plan at any major phase or stage completion milestone or whenever there’s a significant change to the project or organizational leadership. These events might significantly change the audience of your project reporting, and new stakeholders will undoubtedly change the course of your project.
2. Create Reporting Templates for Communications
Communicating with your stakeholders can be a time consuming process, especially when you’re managing more than one project or your project has a large and varied stakeholder group. A solid recommendation for communicating with different groups is to create a consistent template that you can use; this may be an email, a presentation, or another type of deliverable that was agreed to in your communications plan. Using the same reporting template can help you take a laborious task and reduce it down to a few minutes for each communication.
3. Hold Shorter Meetings!
Shorter meetings with a more targeted set of stakeholders allows for better communication and less information to capture! By focusing your meetings you’ll save time and create less (but just as useful) information and project documentation. As an additional plus, your project teams and stakeholders will thank you for every minute of their workday that you can return to them that doesn’t include a meeting room, projector, or fuzzy conference call phone line.
4. Plan Your Day Before It Arrives
Plan your day…the day before! Ultimately, preparation is your biggest asset. A mentor of mine once told me about the seven “Ps.” For project managers she used a special version: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Projects. This euphemism can be extended to encompass your daily work schedule as well. As project managers we traditionally have a much better visibility than most of our team members of all the in-flight work of our projects. With this knowledge and your trusty daily calendar of meetings, you can start to prioritize what tasks you need to complete and when they’re required. This way you can communicate to your stakeholders what tasks and work are viable in the allotted timeframe and what may need to be delayed based on your schedule. A hard thing for many project managers to remember is that they’re resources on their own projects, and they too can become over-allocated. By taking the time to plan your day, even if it’s five minutes at the end of the previous day, you can save a fair amount of time and know how much you have available for the extra requests that come up throughout the day.
5. Plan for Firefighting
By the time you make it to work in the morning, you may already be inundated with emails from people making requests for your time. The immediate issues that require your attention may overwhelm what little free time you have as well as some of your scheduled activities. When this happens, it always helps to prioritize your tasks and see if you have the necessary availability to handle everything that has been assigned to you. If not, doing the assessment gives you the flexibility to work with your team members and colleagues to make sure that all of the tasks are assigned for completion. When the immediate tasks have been completed then you can continue with your planned activities or assist others with their delegated tasks for faster completion.