Chapter 11 - Communicating Results
You’ve planned your project. You’ve assembled a great team. You have your daily and weekly action plans. What’s the final thing you need to be a fantastic project manager?
People need to know about the project’s progress and results! That’s what builds hype, gets people excited about the real-world impact you are having, and keeps your team’s morale high.
What kinds of results should you be communicating?
- Regular progress updates
- Completed milestones
- Final project summary
- Project portfolio summary
Who should you be communicating to?
- Your projects users
- Potential future project users
- Your team
- The project stakeholders
1. Regular Progress Updates
Project momentum is the key sign of project health. You need regular progress updates to keep increasing the project’s energy and momentum. Momentum naturally ebbs and flows.
When the team gets deep in the project implementation, sometimes it starts to feel like a grind. Doubts can arise. Are we closer to accomplishing our goals? How will my piece fit with what the rest of the team is doing? Your team needs a regular mental image of how the big picture is progressing to dispel those doubts and see the project vision.
Progress updates should be as visual as possible. A single graph or chart is usually all you need. Present one visual to show how much progress has been made since the last update.
These updates should be presented at a consistent cadence. I recommend no more than 1 per week, and no fewer than 2 per month, no matter what the project. Any more often than that, and your updates will become noise that people tune out. Any less often than that, and people will feel out of touch. I almost always aim for one update per week.
The stakeholders have a longer view of the project and don’t need these as much on an emotional level. However, seeing regular progress will boost their morale and increase their confidence in you as the project manager and in the project itself. Don’t underestimate the power of consistent visual progress updates.
Also, keep your community informed. Share progress updates on social media or in internal company newsletters as you are going. Add a screenshot or video if you can. When people can picture themselves using your project, they will feel excited about it. Most projects don’t present enough, and so you will have a huge edge over all the other great projects out there.
2. Completed Milestones
The next key moment to broadcast is when the project reaches any key milestones. Conceptually, you should issue a press release every time you hit one of these. If it’s an internal project, just make sure you put in a bit more work and broadcast it more widely than your regular updates.
For a public project, this should probably be an actual press release. Send it out to some publications in your business domain, and try to get as much coverage on social media as possible. Build energy and excitement from your community.
You should showcase the project roadmap, what was previously completed, and rich details on the newest completed milestones, preferably with a demo or a video showing the impact. You should also include basic information about the upcoming milestones to give people something to look forward to next.
When you are initially planning your project schedule, try to ensure that the milestones are spaced nicely for a strong communication schedule. You lose a lot of this messaging power if most of the milestones all get finished right near the end of the project.
3. Final Project Summary
Once the project is completed, you should broadcast a detailed and complete project summary. This will be the biggest and most comprehensive public information release. You may find that you need a different public-facing project summary and internal project summary.
In your internal summary, be sure to include a full project inputs and outputs breakdown. Express the total time, resources, costs, and scope changes. Include the projected benefits or results. Include any changes that occurred during the project. If the schedule slipped by 2 weeks, include that. If the project was delivered ahead of schedule, highlight that. The more detail you include in the internal summary, the more confidence stakeholders will have in your ability to manage projects.
Don’t sugarcoat anything. Real projects are always messy and gritty. Including all the gritty details will help people see your team’s ability to handle the natural chaos and will help set realistic expectations in stakeholder minds for future projects. This builds trust and strengthens working relationships. Include as much salient detail as possible in the internal summary while ensuring that you emphasize the key project goals and core three project input dimensions.
For the public summary, be sure to include everything that the project delivered. Don’t leave out anything! Include any artifacts, such as documentation, training videos, and other project components. Focus on the things that your users will be most excited about. Leave out any technical jargon or details that won’t be of interest to your users.
Present this in a full presentation, preferably a live one. It could also be a video presentation. If you do it live, record the final project summary video and make it accessible in the future. If the project is big, you can also have a proper launch party. Make a big deal about every completed project! This is also a fantastic chance to get your team some public acclaim and praise. Give them credit for their efforts and results!
4. Project Portfolio Summary
After the project is finished, you’re not quite done yet. After a few weeks or months, people will forget that it happened. You need to ensure that your successful project delivery has a long-tail lifecycle.
You can do this by creating a portfolio summary. This is what you will put on your resume, CV, LinkedIn profile, personal website, and/or a dedicated portfolio page. Don’t miss this step!
By building up a public history of projects you managed, you will be creating more opportunities for yourself in the future. You can’t know precisely what doors will be opened later because of a particular project you worked on in the past.
In your portfolio summary, you want a very distilled highlight reel. Include some pictures of the project. Summarize your role on the project (both project management and any other roles you took on). Highlight the key project factors of which you are particularly proud. Include as many notable concrete numbers as you can, such as revenue, number of users, performance traits, engagement, etc.
Publish this summary everywhere you can in a durable format.
That’s the final piece to being a successful project manager.
If you do these three things well, you will be ahead of 80% of the professional project managers in the industry.
- Successfully deliver your project
- Deliver your project efficiently and predictably
- Comprehensively communicate your project results
Chapter Review Questions
- What are the four types of communications every project needs?
- How much detail should be in a progress update?
- How much detail should be in the project’s final summary?
- What is the key value of the portfolio summary?