How will your approach to stakeholder engagement and communication change in 2020?
As we attempt to exit the current health crisis which has consumed our energies and attention during the first half of the year, we will have to adapt many of out normal practices to accommodate the new “normality” of a post-Covid-19 world.
An obvious area to begin thinking about changes to our PM practices is stakeholder engagement and communication. Whereas, previously, face-to-face meetings and communication were almost universally accepted as the preferable way in which to conduct business, experiences during lockdown have given people a taste of the alternatives on offer, as well as the benefits and pitfalls they bring.
The Stakeholder Communications Plan is one of the many tools included within the PMD Pro/Project DPro Guide. The plan’s objective is to clarify the “What, Why, Who, How, and When” of communications. Since the plan is completed before these communications actually take place, it offers us the opportunity to consider how communications in our upcoming project may be changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The elements that may differ will be the “how” and the “when”, as the other three should remain constant and unaffected by external issues such as Covid-19. In consideration of “How”, Project Managers must now analyze whether face-to-face meetings are really essential: can they be replaced by online meetings, emails or phone calls? Ultimately, you must judge whether there are any real benefits in terms of clarity of message, team building etc., to justify your face-to-face meetings. If not, then, in the immediate future at least, alternatives may be just as practical but safer methods of communication.
The communication method chosen is likely to have some impact upon the timing of communications. We sometimes don’t appreciate that, when we share the same physical workspace, we engage in many informal “mini-meetings” during the working day. This may be just to pop your head around someone’s office door to clarify a point. It can be easy to underestimate just how meticulous alternative communications need to be to fill this void. Filling the void could mean the need to increase the frequency of communications as well as the time spent on, for example, writing emails.
What other issues arise from a reduction in the time spent in face-to-face conversation with your colleagues and partners? Think about how you will adapt to this challenge. You can read more about stakeholder engagement and communication on pages 86 and 122-4 of the Project DPro Guide.