Keep ‘Em in the Loop!

Dec 16, 2010 No Comments by

One of the biggest challenges faced by project leaders and their teams can be keeping all of their stakeholders “in the loop”.  This is true of all projects – but it’s especially critical for teams involved in guiding change, since any loss of continuity can have a negative impact on your shared goal of change acceptance.

Communication Barriers Galore: Teams striving to keep everyone informed face some serious headwind in today’s project environment.  Among the elements chipping away at our ability to stay in synch:

  • Competing Priorities: Intra-team communication takes time, planning and resources away from other project activities.
  • Assumptions: Communication tends to be one of those things that gets taken for granted… because key people are in the meetings or copied on the emails, we assume they got the message.
  • Lack of Urgency: Stakeholders and team members have different levels of involvement and interest in the day-to-day messages of the project, so asking people to pay attention to something that may not impact them for several months can be an uphill battle.
  • Misreading Silence: It’s tempting to assume people will ask questions if they have any and that their silence implies understanding.
  • Distance: In some cases the people on your team or those most impacted by your change may not even live in the same time zone – let alone the same room or the same building!

In light of these factors, how can you keep everyone in the same page?

Keep ‘Em On the Same Web Page: One Project Management best practice that I use with most of my clients is to establish and maintain a project website.  In this case, I am not referring to a document repository for project collaboration, but rather a central focal point for stakeholder communication. Here are some of the benefits of using this passive, content-rich communication technique:

1. They’re Easy: Project websites are relatively simple to build these days using WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) design tools that come with fully-featured templates.

2. They’re Economical: There are website building packages so simple that a novice could put up the kind of functional site in an afternoon that used to take a professional (read expensive) developer several days to build, test and bring online a few years ago.

3. They’re Passive: Unlike many other forms of stakeholder communication, websites can be made available 24/7 for a minimal cost. They are an on-demand, user-driven information delivery vehicle. The person sending the message doesn’t have to actually be involved in real-time to drive the dialogue.

4. They’re Sticky: Websites can hold far more information than one could communicate in an email,  meeting, presentation or printed newsletter. All of that content can be recalled instantly at the opening of a browser, so stakeholders only need to click a link to stay informed.

5. They’re Structured: You can organize your website to make information easy to find so stakeholders can very quickly find answers to most of their questions about the project or your change in the same moment they think to ask.

6. They’re Ubiquitous: Almost everyone browses the web these days using desktops, phones and a host of mobile devices. For those who don’t have their own technology for this, companies often arrange for web access through shared computers in break rooms, libraries or other shared areas.

What Goes Up? While no two project websites end up being exactly the same, there are definitely a few elements that should be on any site that’s going to be used to communicate with stakeholders about a big change.  In my next post, I’ll show you some of the elements that should be on your project team website in order for it to be most useful.

-Steve

Questions for Chatter:

  1. With all of the easy-to-use communication vehicles available to a change team today, is it possible to share too much information with stakeholders too early?
  2. What other new technologies have you used to help change teams communicate with their stakeholders?

Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Stakeholder Readiness

About the author

I help people and teams succeed with big changes... never a dull moment!
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