Project communication can get agile too

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Communication folk know they should plan, but the challenges of doing so in fast moving environment can be off putting and of course we all know that failing to plan is planning to fail!

Well now Dutch Professor Betteke van Ruler has got us thinking about how to apply agile thinking to communication planning.  As she explains, the beauty of this approach is that unforeseen dynamics and complexity are not seen as obstacles but are incorporated into the planning method.

I loved her book “Reflective Communication Scrum” straight way – not only because I really believe the days of dry communication plans that languish in drawers (or more likely on an unvisited SharePoint page) are over – but because it is also written and presented in such an engaging way.

As project managers already know, this approach allows for much more flexibility and adaptability. I think that often for communication practitioners, changing the plan as you go because the environment is changing can sometimes be seen as a failure to plan properly in the first place: surely we should have thought of all these things from the start?  The reality of course is very different. We are often dealing with complex stakeholder demands and a fast moving business environment.

I do a lot of communication on change projects and the projects themselves are changing all the time. New stakeholders emerge, scope can change, all sorts of things impact on what you are trying to do – most of which could never have been anticipated.

As Betteke says:

“The traditional communication plan does not take into account the complexity of most communication issues and the dynamics ….. If circumstances change, communication professionals too readily regard these changes as obstacles and consequently as natural excuses for objectives not being achieved.

“Most professionals therefore indeed produce a communication plan – as is expected of them - and almost immediately put it aside because it is out dated the moment they have completed it. Is it then not better to replace it and have a method which by nature embraces dynamics and change?”

My one caution to communicators would be that if you adopt this approach, you really must embrace it. I have worked on change projects that have adopted the terminology but not the methodology – that’s straight to the naughty step in my book!

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Posted by Ann Pilkington on 19th Feb 2015

About the Author
Ann is the author of Communicating Projects published by Gower and a chapter author in Exploring Internal Communication published by Gower. As an independent communication consultant she specialises in leading communication on major change programmes. She is also a director of PR Academy which is a leading providers of education and training in all aspects of communication. Her early career was in journalism before moving to PR and communication rolls with major companies including Barclays, BT and The AA. She sits on People SIG and is also a fellow of the RSA where she volunteers her communication expertise to help members' projects.

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