Project management is rarely linear.
You wrote a perfect work plan, but scope creep, shifting priorities, and deadline adjustments hinder the project development process. You need to adjust your approach and, more importantly, advise team members of changing circumstances. That’s where a communication plan comes into play.
Even when things are going well, creating a communication plan to manage team correspondence improves connection. These plans are valuable tools that foster a successful project, effective communication, and excellent results for your team.
What is a communication plan?
A communication plan is an organized document — usually in a table format — that describes standards for communication channels, actors, and frequency. It outlines what information to relay and when so stakeholders and team members stay in the loop.
A strategic plan outlines the methods you’ll use to relay project information by:
- Providing guidelines surrounding update delivery, frequency, and recipients
- Clarifying which communication channels to use and when
- Identifying the best people to answer questions in different areas
- Designating parties responsible for each communication channel
- Establishing a searchable repository for essential information and documents like the project plan and timelines
Project team members have diverse roles, backgrounds, and skill sets. They might work in different departments and locales and communicate across different channels, making relationship-building and exchanging information challenging. Prevent silos and develop communication protocols to ensure team members deliver the right work at the right time.
What should a communication plan include?
A communication plan should provide vital information about the project, communication processes, and team interactions by answering questions like:
- Who is the project manager?
- Who are the stakeholders?
- Who are the project team members, and what are their roles?
- How should I communicate project details, like status updates, to the stakeholders?
- How often do I need to provide a status update?
- What purpose does each communication type serve, and under which circumstances should I use them?
- Which situations require in-person conversations versus asynchronous communication?
Benefits of a good communication plan
The benefits of effective workplace communication are predictable: improved morale, engagement, and productivity. If team members already have a communication system, it might seem redundant to establish a plan.
But putting together a formal communication strategy standardizes the process, offering documentation and a place to answer people’s questions even before they have them. Your team will clear roadblocks faster knowing where to go to keep the workflow moving.
And that’s only the beginning.
1. Streamlines communication
Keep your project team focused instead of jumping between messaging platforms and searching for the best way to communicate with each other. That way, you prevent redundancies and clarify expectations early. Communication planning ensures messages reach their targets, information is easy to locate, and all correspondence is useful and necessary.
Establish guidelines like these in your plan:
- Only use the work management tool to discuss project processes and deliverables.
- C-level stakeholders receive status updates from the project leads once a week.
- Emergencies require verbal communication via phone or video conference.
2. Facilitates collaboration
Collaboration takes effort. A big part of working together effectively as a team is understanding the best ways to communicate with each other. If team members are unsure of the communication conventions, they might be less likely to reach out, leading to misunderstandings and project delays.
By clarifying when and how to communicate — like when it’s okay to override a “Do Not Disturb” status — you remove barriers and empower team members to solve problems themselves.
3. Saves time
Searching for documents. Waiting for approvals. Following up on project status. These are time sinks that distract workers from high-impact tasks. Having a clear sense of where documentation is and who to direct general inquiries to speeds up the project. And communicating information about assigned deliverables also reduces the likelihood of redundancies and duplicates.
4. Clarifies expectations
By clarifying timelines around status updates and project milestones, stakeholders will know when to expect them. Team leaders don’t have to field unnecessary requests for information, and everyone knows what status updates to prepare and when.
5. Provides visibility
Granting access to the communication plan lets stakeholders and team members independently monitor the project status and progress. You'll have fewer check-ins and meetings, saving everyone time. And when someone has a question, they know they can look at the communication plan first before moving on to the next solution.
6. Offers opportunity for feedback
Projects are delicate systems with dozens of tasks, and with so much going on, it’s easy to let feedback slip through the cracks. A communication strategy reminds stakeholders to offer feedback and identify potential issues on stages or sections before they impact the whole project.
How to write a communication plan
If you’re working on a wide-reaching project or large team, creating a communication plan might feel overwhelming. But with a systematic approach, you can go step by step and develop a plan that sticks:
1. Define communication methods
Decide which platforms your team will use to communicate, when to use each one, and for what. Include guidelines for live, synchronous communication when someone needs an answer in real time, and when the team can use asynchronous methods.
For example, you might decide to use:
- Email: Communicate with external stakeholders and include team members on threads.
- Direct messaging: When you require synchronous communications for daily status updates and answers to quick questions, a quick message is all you need.
- Work management platforms: A project management solution like Roadmunk lets you discuss work details, assign tasks, and store important documentation in one place.
- Video conference platforms: Talk face-to-face for daily stand-up meetings, brainstorming sessions, or the project post-mortem.
2. Align on frequency
After implementing the tools you and your team will use, decide how often you’ll communicate. This avoids unnecessary check-ins and ensures you offer feedback regularly.
Your schedule may include:
- Daily scrum: Team members provide a brief update via Zoom on their progress, what they’re currently working on, and where they expect to be by the end of the work day.
- Weekly status update: Every week, you post updates to your work management platform for stakeholders and project sponsors to review.
- Milestones: When the team achieves a project milestone, you’ll communicate it via an announcement on Slack.
- Monthly team meeting: You’ll regularly review upcoming milestones, identify potential roadblocks, and brainstorm solutions.
3. Establish stakeholder buy-in
Present your communication strategy at the kick-off meeting so stakeholders understand your plan. Clarify how and when they should expect messages regarding the project. Some will receive daily communications, and others act on a need-to-know basis. Make sure those standards are clear before moving on.
4. Share and update
Once you have stakeholder support, you need to share your communication plan with the rest of the project team. Ensure it’s accessible in an easy-to-find, central location, like your work management platform.
If you need to make any adjustments, inform the team and stakeholders beforehand. Update your document so everyone can access the most up-to-date plan.
Communication plan example
If you aren’t sure where to start, try creating a team or company communication plan template and plugging in the relevant information later. Include sections like:
- Description: What communication style will you be using?
- Frequency: How often will you communicate?
- Channel: Which platform will you use? Will you be communicating synchronously or asynchronously?
- Audience: With whom will you be communicating?
- Owner: Who will convey this communication?
Once complete, your communication strategy should look something like this.
|Team scrum||Daily||Zoom||Project team members||Project team members|
|Project status||Weekly||Zoom||Project team members, internal stakeholders||Project manager|
|Production meetings||Monthly||Zoom||Project team members (required), internal stakeholders (optional)||Project manager|
|External stakeholder updates||As required||Project managers and stakeholders||Project sponsor|
|Deliverables and milestone updates||As required||Project team members||Project team members|
Effective communication made easier with Tempo
A strategic communication plan paves the way to project management success — but only if you have the right tools.
Tempo’s portfolio management tools organize your communications for a smoother, simpler process. Learn how Tempo's Timesheets extension for Jira tracks resource hours, and how to conduct cost analysis with the same tool. And throughout your project, you can write detailed reports so your plan always stays on track.