Communicate Early and Often

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Jennifer MacIsaac

For the past year, Thinking Big staff have been involved in the Web Renewal Initiative for Veterans Affairs Canada. This initiative is a multi-year project where all federal departments and agencies are migrating one central website, That's over 1500 websites moving to one website, no big deal. Our goal as the project team is to ensure that Veterans Affairs Canada's migration goes off without a hitch. With a project of this size, that's a tall order.

We've all heard the phrase 'communication is key' uttered in meetings or during presentations, in fact, it's quite possible that your eyes started to glaze over just now while reading this sentence. Despite the over-used communication idioms, communication really is crucial to any project's success

Our strategy on this project was to communicate early, communicate often and then check back to ensure that people understood what was said. That last part was a key to the Project Team's early success. Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), who is leading this initiative, challenged our team by implemented a significant change to the scope which affected both VAC and the partnering stakeholders.

For a client of this size, with many and complex stakeholder needs, we had to adjust our usual communications, and create a customized plan to properly manage the complexities involved. We were diligent about our communication at all times and implemented our strategy though:

  • holding one-on-one meetings
  • inviting stakeholder to working group meetings
  • communicating TBS key messages
  • providing updates to senior management to share with the stakeholder's senior management

This allowed for transparency and established faith in the project team. This emphasis on communication helped with the stakeholder's buy-in to the project and made achieving our goal a success.

I was already a big believer in communication. I'd rather over communicate, not that there's such a thing, rather than under communicate. But communicating effectively is a continuing practice. One is never done learning how to successfully communicate. People hear and interpret things differently. You need to adjust to your audience, share the message through different avenues and repeat your message until it has been understood.


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