An email that goes unanswered. A message in your team communication tool that goes unread. These things might be the bane of your existence, and you can minimize their frequency with a team communication plan.
This plan tells your team what types of information to communicate and through which channels to do so. Below, learn what these plans encompass, how you can write one, and why even the most communicative teams benefit from a formal plan.
- What is a team communication plan?
- 6 steps to writing an effective plan
- Benefits of a communication plan
- What should a communication plan include?
What is a team communication plan?
In project management, a team communication plan details how you’ll share key project updates and information with team members and stakeholders. It tells your team which people should receive which types of notifications and when to provide updates. It also explains the appropriate communication methods and times, how often information should be shared, and who oversees each communication route.
Team alignment happens with clear communication. Have one source of truth for all your meetings by using a tool like Fellow.
6 steps to writing a team communication plan
If the above definition of a team communication plan sounds a bit technical, rest assured: It’s not that complicated! An effective communication plan is pretty easy to put together. Here’s how to do it.
- Set your communication channels
- Create the plan as a team
- Figure out how often you’ll communicate
- Choose the right tools
- Keep everyone on the same page
- Revisit the plan with your team
1 Set your communication channels
Your first step is to determine which channels your team will use to communicate. That decision should go hand in hand with deciding what your team should share on these channels. For example, you could say that Slack is how your team members will ask you simple questions. You could also say that phone calls are necessary for team problem-solving. How you pair your team’s needs with the types of communication channels you use is entirely up to you.
2 Create the plan as a team
A great communication strategy caters to how your team members already keep each other updated. For example, let’s say your team members fare best when they get updates on certain goals through your task management tool. What good would it do if your communication plan entailed providing these updates via phone call instead? That’s why you should create your communication plan as a team. It might not work well otherwise.
3 Figure out how often you’ll communicate
Your team might know how to send project status updates to stakeholders, but that knowledge alone doesn’t tell them how often they should do so. That’s why, when you create a communication plan, you should pair each communication protocol with a frequency. Go beyond “send updates to stakeholders via email” – say “send weekly updates to stakeholders via email.” These timeframes are key for effectively managing communication.
4 Choose the right tools
Your communication plan should be clear on which tool to use for certain types of communication. This way, one team member isn’t trying to reach another through an app that person never uses.
You can figure out which tools are best during the teamwide planning phase of your plan development. Get a consensus on which tools your team uses most often and finds most reliable. Limit communications to these tools, and offer training to anyone who’s not yet up to speed on them.
5 Keep everyone on the same page
Even the most thorough team communication plan can’t prevent occasional gaps. Maybe your plan involves weekly virtual meetings for your remote team, but there’s one team member who keeps double-booking themself. Speak to that team member to find out why this keeps happening and remind them that you need them in the meeting. They might start showing up, which means your team communication plan is doing its job.
6 Revisit the plan with your team
For a communication plan to succeed, it needs team buy-in. That buy-in is harder to achieve if the plan fades from your team’s memory. You should regularly remind your team what the plan requires from them, and you should be open to changing things as needed. Bonus points if you yourself always stick to the plan – it’s way easier for your team to do something if you do it too.
Benefits of a communication plan
It’s understandable if you’re still wondering why you’d want to take all the above steps in the first place. Maybe you think your team is already communicating just fine as is without a formal plan in place. Even if that is true, the benefits of creating a formal plan are substantial. They include:
- Less duplicate work. Let’s say team member A tells team member B that team member C is doing a certain task that B might’ve had to do. What if A delivers that news to B through a platform B never checks? In that case, B and C might both do the task. That means one person has lost precious time they could’ve spent doing something else. Communication plans avoid this outcome.
- Less jumping among apps. Inevitably, your team members will have different communication styles. Maybe one person prefers sharing information via email but doesn’t quite love your task management suite. Maybe another person feels exactly the opposite.
These two might have to jump among apps they don’t like to effectively communicate with one another. Centralizing your communications into one app via your plan solves this problem and can help team members master the app in question.
- Better collaboration. This benefit somewhat speaks for itself: When teams communicate better, they do better work. They share all the information everyone on the team needs in a timely fashion. That’s the best possible scenario for any team.
What should a communication plan include?
A communication plan can be written out in detail, or it can be a simple table. Either way, it includes six key components that leadership, management, and other team members should understand. These components are as follows.
- The potential occasions for communication. For example, you could list stand-up meetings, stakeholder updates, and virtual project team meetings in your communication plan.
- The frequency of communications for each occasion. Stand-up meetings could happen daily, stakeholder updates biweekly, and virtual team meetings monthly.
- The appropriate channel for communication. Stand-up and virtual meetings could both happen via your video conferencing tool of choice. Stakeholder updates could happen via email.
- The people who should receive certain communications. Stand-up and virtual meetings could involve all people on the project team. Stakeholder updates could involve just you and the stakeholders.
- The project roles. Maybe you’re responsible for stakeholder meetings while someone else runs the show at daily stand-up meetings. Your communication plan should clearly state each person’s roles.
- When real-time vs. asynchronous communication is appropriate. Don’t freak out at the fancy-looking word “asynchronous” – it just means any conversation that isn’t real-time. Phone calls, video conferences, and in-person meetings are real-time, and email, chat, and things like that are asynchronous. Your team communication plan should make it clear whether certain situations call only for one or the other.
Don’t wait, communicate
A communication plan won’t make itself – not even if you’re already super happy with how your team communicates. Take the time now to make a plan so you can keep your team’s communications excellent or improve on any gaps you notice. Meetings will inevitably be part of your plan, and you can use Fellow before, during, and afterward to make the most of the occasion.