How will the COVID19 pandemic affect your project. Is everything on hold and as a result are your stakeholders in the dark as to what might happen about your project. In the last few months stakeholders have had more pressing concerns. But for you to smoothly restart work it is a benefit to have engaged with stakeholders during the lockdown. How you handle stakeholder engagement post lockdown will make a significant impact.
Adjusting you approach
Your stakeholder communications plan is one of the core documents that should have been adjusted as a result of projects being on hold. The frequency and type of communication is likely to have changed. Obviously, the pandemic has caused restrictions on face to face meetings and public gatherings. But what sort of communication will you stakeholders wish to see. Strategy and approach to engaging with stakeholders should be defined in your stakeholder engagement plan.
The engagement plan clearly is another document that would benefit from review and update. With the engagement plan being the focus for the project to determine how and what approach stakeholder engagement should take. It is an ideal vehicle with which to map out high post lockdown stakeholder engagement should take place. The communication plan defines how stakeholder engagement is executed. Defining what is communicated, why, when and how.
An opportunity to review and update
This situation gives an excellent opportunity to consider how stakeholder engagement can take place. It is a chance to review what tools can be used. Is it appropriate for your project to consider social media or mobile apps. Can you extend the use of collaboration tools. All this depends on your type of project and your stakeholder audience.
Engagement needs to remain as effective as possible, any changes to plans needs take this into account. Assuming you have identified your various stakeholder groups you need to define how best to communicate to them coming out of the lockdown. Define what the new ongoing normal might be. Prioritising engagement with critical stakeholders is still your main focus.
Any change of approach you adopt will be affected by what is possible in your working situation. Whether there are social distancing rules in your community and whether your stakeholders and project teams have returned to an office environment. In situations where distance working is now taking place that didn’t previously take place a different communication path is likely to be required. You may also be faced with a challenge of people adjusting to a new way of working. People have been used to working from home. But with this be the new “normal” ongoing?
What is your new normal
You need to establish what the new normal looks like for your project. Once you’ve created new working patterns, you then have the basis to define your revised communication. But do be aware that new communication routes will take time to establish. Some of your stakeholders may not be used to communication through the likes of social media or phone apps. Members of the project team or customers may be more comfortable with face to face briefings. They need to be eased into changes, confirming how they are informed.
It is possible that you need will need short term special communications and additional help people adjust. It is also likely that you need some flexibility in your communication planning that can adjust to changes in circumstances in a post lockdown world. Some countries will need to reconsider lockdown positions and possibly reintroduce restrictions. Your updated project communication plan ideally should be able to adjust to what might take place if lockdown measures change.
Projects should see some benefit from stakeholder support where they can demonstrate they have communication clearly defined. Everything planned and ready for changes that may come. Get it right and everyone involved with the project will have more confidence of success.