Communications Planning – Communications Methods

October 4, 2009

Communication can happen in several ways between interested parties. These communications can be bi-lateral or multi-lateral between interested parties. In the context of project management, these communications necessarily take place between the project manager and the interested stakeholders. Usually the communication methods are categorized into three major classifications. These are the interactive method, push communications method and the pull method.

Interactive Communication

In this method of communication two or more parties are involved in multi-lateral exchange of information, views, assessments etc. This probably is the most efficient method of arriving at a common understanding amongst all parties. Meetings, phone calls (including conference calls) and video conferencing are some of the methods that can be used for gaining such common understanding. One of major reason of being able to convey better quality information is that one is able to convey even non verbal cues in face to face meetings and video conferences. While only voice communication does not convey as much information, it is still better than paper based communication. Tone of the voice, the inflections used even the loudness of you speech conveys a lot of additional meaning. Being interactive it helps parties shape their understanding very quickly and it is possible to reach consensus that mush easily. Face to face communication is probably the best because you can actually customize the way you convey something to a person, because you know from past experience what is most effective for this particular person. But, gathering the relevant people together can be very time consuming and quite a juggling act with everybody’s calendar.

Push Communication

This covers all the means of communication that pushes information to the recipient. Memos, letter, emails, reports, faxes, voice mails, press release are communications that are sent out to the recipients, but there is no means of confirms if they received the same and if the information has been picked up by the parties and are understood. Even though such communications such as email and fax etc are guaranteed to reach the party, you still cannot ensure they are actually read and digested. Voice mails, quite often, become the classical telephone tag.

If you can ensure that everyone is included in your push communication distribution list is one way of ensuring that relevant information has been sent out to all. The push communication will need to be very focused and used sparingly. Summary of a situation and laundry list of to do items are well suited for such communication. But, do remember that busy people have very little time to process a lot of such information- a lot of emails for example.

Pull Communication

Typically in this set up relevant information is made available at a known location and interested parties “pull” in such information and update their understanding of a situation. This is a convenient method when the exchange involves a large volume of information and/ or a large audience is involved. This includes such methods as a wiki based information distribution, Intranet sites, knowledge repositories or even card/ sticky note walls where the project team makes notes of what they are doing.

It is up to the project manager to efficiently design his communications plan using a mix of these methods.

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