Project Communications Plan – The Secret Sauce

Within the aerospace firm that I work, there are dozens of projects being completed on any given day and time.  We have a matrix organization in which PM’s lead projects by utilizing members whom have their own functional manager and have multiple project responsibilities.  Our company, which is small relative to other aerospace divisions whom manufacture similar systems, has made great strides in developing PM tools to be successful; our PM’s are now trained in and utilize MS Project and its toolset, they have developed WBS tools that are utilized across each project being utilized, and most importantly, all tools are standardized so that each PM and project team have a repeatable game plan and tool set for projects which change ALL the time.  However, our company has continued to see wide variation in project success in terms of timeliness, cost and performance.  Even with the added tools, we have only seen marginal improvement.  What could possibly be missing?  Enter the Project Communications Plan!

A Project Communications Plan, as described in the text in Chapter 4, highlights the importance of internal planning for communications.  Projects see all types of variance against original plans.  This communication tool ensures a constant cadence in which all functional units of a matrix organization understand their responsibilities and accountabilities as the project progresses and changes.  I felt that this piece of project management was the missing link for our company’s projects; project charters, WBS baselines, RACI charts (responsible, accountable, consult, inform), and weekly project meetings were simply not enough for our team to meet the mega trifecta of project success – on time, at cost and meeting performance requirements.  After doing some searching, multiple sources identified that a formal PCP was the most vital form of team collaboration.  An excellent explanation can be found on TechRepublic’s website: blog 1\Communication plans are key to project success – TechRepublic.html.  The PMI Institute also further quantified the importance of communication via a white paper, and PMI identified that 80% of highly effective communicating project teams met original goals: blog 1\Communications_whitepaper_v2.ashx.

The text highlights (5) important segments of a PCP that ensure a team that is aligned with its internal and external expectations; of which (2) I feel provide singular value above the Project Charter.  I felt that the (1) Information Needs and (2) Sources of Information piece to the PCP offer an excellent way of ensuring team success.  By identifying the “When/Who” a team member receives its information, positive project pressures are applied to each individual.  I feel that positive project pressure is an excellent way to ensure team cohesion and “buy in”.  I feel the best way to implement PCP is to have the team get together right after the WBS and milestones for the project have been defined.  Then, each member can understand upfront, how they are impacting each phase of the project, at a task level, and more importantly, how each individual relies on the other to ensure tasks remains on schedule, on cost and meet performance.

A PM can act as the guide for the PCP and also better understand the flow of information between functional departments (especially when the PM is not the resident expert for any of those functional departments) in order to make sure each task is implemented on time.  Does the class feel that this is true of projects worked in past?  Are other similar applications of a PCP utilized in PM efforts?