Why the PMO Must Use Communication to Reduce the Impact of Change

Author: Henry Bennett

If data is the lifeblood of the PMO, communicating that data to keep project and programme stakeholders engaged and confident is the body through which that lifeblood travels. Good communication ensures continual buy-in from the wider organisation, keeps the board up to speed and on your side, minimizes noise and ensures people have relevant, up-to-date information about what is really going on. This is where effective communication really pays off in more effective project delivery.

When conditions change and new information comes to light, it is impossible to please all of the people all of the time. At every stage in a project lifecycle you will have people at different stages of the acceptance curve.

The challenge is that while the second half of the curve is all about providing solid direction and supporting the team on their acceptance, the first half, the fall into helplessness, requires strong and clear communication. With different members of the team passing along the curve at different rates (and starting at different times) communication is key throughout the entire lifecycle of the project. This is all about visibility – making sure everyone can see what’s happening and understands why.

People need communication – they need to know why they are doing something, what the benefits will be to them and how we are doing in terms of delivery. They need to hear, on a regular basis, where the project is up to and you need them to see and understand every win, every successful deliverable and every completed step along the way.

Where communication is poor or sporadic, it is human nature to fill the void with conjecture, rumor and opinion. This is what we call “noise” on a project. The challenge here is that often senior management will make decisions based as much on volume as content. Where communication on a project is poor and noise is allowed to build up and amplify, even with projects that are actually delivering perfectly well, executives have been known to swap out project managers or even cancel projects because the general noise level got too loud.

In order to avoid noise buildup, you need to constantly reinforce why the changes are necessary; demonstrate delivery against the plan; prove the value in the changes; show the future benefits the business will receive by going through the pain now. Most importantly you need to constantly re-paint the vision, adding detail and perspective as the picture evolves.
Where you have issues, face them openly, address any impact on the business case and then restate the cost, effort and benefit analysis so that it is clear that in spite of the expected challenges, this is something worthwhile, something vital for the future success of the business.