Communication Plans

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The Basics

Effective work communication is comparable to operational plumbing: you don't notice it until it doesn't work. Any blockage will hold up progress, and the implementation of new software or managment tools will not fix fundaental flaws: inattention, missing information, or delays, planned or unplanned.

The grocery list

Communication plans need

  • clear rules of engagement,
  • knowlege of audiences and their expectations
  • knowlege by the audiences of what is needed from them
  • regular review and revision


Simple - Grocery List

Out of Milk is an app that lets you easily add items by scanning a barcode or simple text entry. The Pro version links to store specials and adds them as well - your list isn't confined to a single store's app. The technology is irrelevant if nobody tells you the milk is gone, especially if you're not the one drinking it.

A simple grid with magnets with a space to add miscellaneous turned out to be simpler for the family as the list could be updated dynamically without having to do a lot of erasing or crossing out of items.

Intermediate - Pizza Matrix

Pizza parties are serious business. There are preferences, allergies, and people who say "whatever". The matrix helped us condense all of this information into a format that could inform the final purchase with a minimum of back and forth.

Legend:
0 - NO I WILL DIE (dietary restriction or other issue)
1 - Won't eat it
2 - I'll eat it
3 - YES I WILL DIE WITHOUT IT (not really but pleeeease?)

Name/Topping Sausage Peperoni Anchovy Onions
Carlos 2 1 3 2
Natalie 2 2 2 0


For the remote Help Desk for the Texas Digital Library, there was a daily scrum between Lubbock and Austin to manage trouble reports and recieve updates on where the programming was going. Tickets were managed in Jira.

Complex - Project and Program Management

For projects we used MS Project for tasks and milestones. I also maintained a simple Sharepoint site that held the charter, membership, calendar of major events, and a miniature blog with updates. Depending on a project's scope I would regularly email affected audiences with updates and asking for feedback. There was little feedback to be had, but people appreciated the option.

For multiple projects, I would meet with the staff once per week to follow progress and make adjustments. We had a whiteboard with four classifications: Planning, executing, on the horizon and stalled. We could note where I could break logjams, or I could notify the staff that priorities had changed and we needed to adjust accordingly.

Advanced Communication

Service Level Agreement

Main Article: Service Level Agreement

At the TTU Library I simplified the SLA creation process by:

  • Abstracting the basics that all services had in common
  • Creating links to individual pages for complex services
  • Negotiating a Priorities List that grouped services by importance
  • Introducing and negotiating a Responsibility Matrix and flow diagrams that listed who could make decisions under what circumstances

The Ten Questions (+1) And How To Use Them

Official Blog Post

The Big Red Question

 This is the most basic question:  What problem are you trying to solve?

Four Directional Questions

 Who are you?
 What do you want?
 Why are you here?
 Where are you going?

Six Operational Questions

 Who are your audiences? Assume at least two: intended and unintended.
 What does each audience need from you?
 What, if anything, do you need from each customer?
 Will there be restrictions on what each audience can contribute?
 Who will be the administrator(s)?
 How often will the site be reviewed for updating and organizing, and who will do it?

How To Use Them

The best practice has been to have a broad discussion about goals with the principal stakeholders up and down the chain of command. After this, the project manager answers the question from audience perspectives. When principals are asked to answer the questions cold, they can freeze up. Having a third party answer the questions starts a dialog that provides a more complete document.

See Also

Using the BRQ