Internal vs. External Project Communication – Mitigating Risk

CommunicationMany organizations place a lot of emphasis on communicating with external project stakeholders, and rightly so. They set up formal project communications teams which create detailed communication strategies, plans, and deliverables that go through extensive review and approval processes.

While this type of communication is very important, one must not forget internal project communications—the sharing of information with fellow team members. Internal communication ensures that all the project resources have the correct information, leading to overall alignment in both strategy and tactics.

Any misunderstandings can be detrimental to the success of the project. While good communication reduces risk and enables issues to be addressed quickly, poor communication can significantly increase the overall project risk.

How can we ensure good internal project communication?

The best way is to plan ahead. Why not treat it the same way as communication with external project stakeholders? Create an internal communication strategy and plan. It is essential that communication be both top-down and bottom-up. Success must be monitored on an ongoing basis and delivery methods revised as required.

Considerations for setting up successful project communication

  1. Set expectations for project teams to share information. If information-sharing becomes the norm, it will be much easier to ensure it continues and is effective. After all, practice makes perfect.
  2. Create a communications strategy and plan. This doesn’t have to be an extensive document, as short as one PowerPoint slide. The strategy and plan includes the communication objectives, responsible parties and medium, and activities such as the following:
  • Regular meetings (e.g. weekly) with the project team, with the objective of sharing information
  • Regular update emails (e.g. weekly) with the latest project news
  • An online discussion forum where project team members can ask questions and receive answers with searchable results
  • A catalogue of all project documentation for easy reference, including a governance process for updating the catalogue and the documentation on an ongoing basis
  • A methodology for gathering feedback on the state of communication from team members

The extent of internal communications will vary depending on the size and complexity of a project. Not all of the above components are required for all projects. For smaller projects, the required process may be as basic as one weekly meeting. On the other hand, larger initiatives may require a much more extensive methodology to ensure that all the project team members are connected. Ultimately, as long as internal communications are planned, executed and monitored, the risk of miscommunication and misalignment can be mitigated.