What are my communication tasks as leader of a project?

As project manager, who am I supposed to communicate with and about what? How do I decide what's needed for a particular project?
Your communication tasks as the leader of a project are up, down, and sideways. You need to keep company management aware of project progress and any issues that would impact the project meeting its goals. You need to keep your project team aware of progress, issues, and actions all along the way. You need to keep your manager and the functional managers who provide your project resources informed of progress and needs as they arise. You would be well advised to keep project stakeholders informed too—those who are customers for, or otherwise affected by, this project. Finally, there are also "project influencers"—people who are not on the team, but have information that could benefit this project, whose influence in the organization could make or break this project in some way. Unfortunately, you have many masters, and all of them want to know what's going on with your project.

One of the key elements of the project plan is the Communication Plan that defines what, how often, and to whom you will communicate project information. Successful projects involve significant amounts of communication among various team member and out to customers and stakeholders. A Communication Plan is used to help the team think through what kind of communication they need to have a successful project. It also helps establish an expectation of proactive communication among team members as well. It documents what the team agrees to do: what status reporting will be done, what team meetings will be held, how decisions will get documented, and who will participate in various reviews.

The Communication Plan not only makes it clear to the core team how the project communication will work; it also lets people outside the core team know what to expect. It can also document communication that should occur between related projects. Our Communications Plan guideline provides a template example you can use to tailor a plan for your project. Another plan version is aimed outwards from the team—our Project Stakeholder/Influencer Communication Plan.

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