A project manager recently asked me how I could manage my stakeholders when there wasn’t enough time for meetings. She had already ruled out email and wanted an alternative communication method (preferably asynchronous), that didn’t require sitting in on project meetings.
I had a few options to communicate with her team effectively that I shared with my wife, and today I’ll share them.
These might be a good option for you if you, like many others, are having trouble getting the word out when it is difficult to get everyone to a meeting.
Here are 6 ways you can communicate with people when you don’t have the time to meet in person.
Make a minimum communication list
Set the minimum communication that you can do
Reach out to the most difficult stakeholders
Improve email updates
You can ditch real-time comms
Report by exception
Let’s take a look at each one and see if they can work for us.
1. Make a minimum communication list
Who are the minimum stakeholders you need to communicate with? Make a list. Identify those that aren’t important to the success of your projects. Then, send them a quick message letting them know that you are available to update them whenever they need.
You can then cross them off and stop contacting (or at the very least, contact them infrequently about important stuff).
If they are really interested in knowing the details, they will get in touch. This is not the right thing to do with critical people who need the information.
Talk to the people on the list. What do they want? What do they want to learn? Most people are able to see that they cannot say they want to know about the project, refuse engagement and then complain that it isn’t their problem.
2. Set the minimum communication that you can do
What is the smallest amount of communication you can get away with? Perhaps:
Ensure that everyone has the information they need to make decisions on the project
Ensure that the sponsor/key stakeholders are informed about issues you need assistance with
Make sure they are clear about the decisions you require them to make in order to move the project forward.
Your’minimum communications list’ should be mapped to the appropriate people and forms of communication. This will serve as the basis for your project communications plan. Download a free template here for a comms planning template.
3. Reach out to the difficult stakeholders
I know, I know: there’s no such thing as a “difficult stakeholder”, only challenging behavior. You can identify the person who will display challenging behavior and give them special attention.
Don’t schedule meetings if you don’t have the time.
You already know who the stakeholders are that behave in a difficult manner. It’s easier to talk to them one-to-one when you don’t know how they will react. (Here are some more strategies to engage with stakeholders and manage difficult behavior.
Make time to speak with the stakeholders one-on-one. It is sufficient to spend 15 minutes with each important person, so give them call.
Grab a bundle with stakeholder management templates Improve email status updates
Emails don’t need to be a black hole. My experience is that emails are more likely to be read if they’re short and specific, and people are aware of what they are before opening them.
Personally, I love email status updates. I cover:
This week’s tasks:
Next week’s tasks due to be completed
Other interesting things:
I don’t bother to add ‘Dear …” at the top (only for these status update! I just end it with my usual email signature. To make it easier for lazy readers, I color code the status updates Red-Amber-Green. You can modify the format to your liking. People won’t open the message if they don’t want to; if they are interested, they will.
It all depends on who you are communicating with. Email is the best way to communicate with me. I often keep my phone on silent and don’t even check it unassisted.