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PM Tips and Techniques Corner

PMIGLC Article 3 - Risk: The Affinity Diagram

By Hans Jonasson, PMP

What is the most common reason for failed projects? Undefined requirements? Poor customer relationships? Lack of teamwork? It probably depends on the project and the environment in which you operate, but more often than not, you can trace it back to poor communication.

The role of the project manager is primarily a role of communication. You communicate with the customer, your team, your peers, your manager and many others. Trace back your project issues and I bet you’ll find a majority of them have their roots in poor communication. That is why PMI® put so much emphasis on performing a stakeholder analysis, creating a communications plan and performing activities like kick-off meetings. They are all tools to help improve project communication.

So, how do you get started on the right track? Set expectations up front and get a commitment from all stakeholders on the right level of communication. A tool we used to use at EDS for this is the communication map. It’s a graphical depiction of project communication.

Step 1. Identify those with whom you need to communicate. You’ll need to look for all stakeholders that may have a vested interest in the outcome of your project, as well as those from whom you may need input.

Step 2. Identify what information you need from each of them. This could be anything from requirements to approvals to status reports.

Step 3. Identify what information you plan on providing to them. Again, it could be status reports or documents for approval, or other information that you plan to share.

Step 4. Put the project in a circle in the middle, put the stakeholders on the outside in boxes and draw arrows for each communication item.

Step 5. Call a kick-off meeting with all the stakeholders. Get their commitment to providing you with the expected inputs, then verify that they need your outputs and ask what other information they may need.

Once you have this level of commitment for project communication from all your stakeholders, you will find yourself in much better shape and experiencing fewer surprises.

Like many best practices in project management, this is not all that time consuming, but it does take discipline and a process oriented mind.

Good Luck!