The ‘six-whys’ of communication is discussed in a series of blogs. In this one, the focus is on communication as information-seeking.
Communication as information-seeking
In information-seeking, the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘how’ questions are critical. Who should we be speaking to about what, and most importantly, who has the authority and expertise to answer the questions. This demands an excellent understanding of the stakeholders’ sources of power and careful thought on how to categorize and group stakeholders for the consultation process.
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The PMI process assumes that the primary purpose of communications is to ensure the project provides relevant, accurate, timely, and consistent project information to all the appropriate project stakeholders. This is a good starting point, but there are other reasons for communicating with our stakeholders. For communication to become purposeful, it is important that these are understood if we are to have any chance of formulating the right communications strategy. Aside from the four communication questions—what, when, who, and how—to truly understand the purpose of communication, we must, of course, ask one further overarching question: Why?
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Communication is the core element of stakeholder engagement in projects. All projects, even the smallest stakeholder-neutral project, depend on some form of communication. No project can exist in complete isolation from its stakeholders.
Project managers recognise the need to do communications planning and to have a communications plan. Where the problem appears to lie is in how well communications are designed to meet the specific needs of the project and its stakeholders. Too often, there is a reliance on generic practices and standards, without sufficient challenge or questioning of the appropriateness of the approach:
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‘Communication as persuasion’ attempts to change the positions of stakeholders and align them with the aims of the project. In these projects, the resistance to the change is often high, and the agendas of the different stakeholder groups varied. Neither marketing nor ‘communication to inspire action’ is sufficient.
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