A “Failure to Communicate” Plan

cool-hand-lukeWhat we have here is a failure to communicate. If you’ve seen Cool Hand Luke you’ll know what’s coming next. While no one sets out to intentionally communicate poorly, we’re surrounded with examples where communications fail, are misinterpreted, or create a backlash. So, how do we resolve this?

Let’s break it into three stages:

  • Preparing for the disaster
  • Communicating during (the disaster, incident, event etc)
  • Communicating after

Stage 1 – Preparing for the disaster

Expect it will happen. If you run an IT Support Center, expect that at some point, systems will fail. If they don’t, people may let you down. In either case:
Develop your communication plan in advance

  • Simple but Complete – your communication plan may not need to be very complicated but it does need to cover the most critical areas. For this reason, prioritize the key points that need to be communicated.
  • Different Folks – will use different channels to receive your message. For this reason, develop your materials so they can be shared using fax, mobile, and on the web. Don’t assume everyone has the same setup as you do.
  • Authority – make sure the person distributing the communication plan has sufficient authority to impress upon others the importance of the document. If not, your plan will not reach its full potential.
  • Training – don’t assume that everyone has the confidence to share the plan. It’s not unusual for a communication plan to be ‘dumped’ on someone without being given the necessary training. For example, if you need to use social media or other web tools make sure the person has the necessary skills.
  • Be Consistent – don’t chop and change your message. Reinforce the same message through your communications. One way to ensure this is to make sure the same language, tone, and phrasing are consistent across all communications. This comes with experience and is also a reflection of your understanding and sensitivity to the impact the communications will have on others.
  • Test it. Have you covered all scenarios? Prepare to communicate over multiple channels.
  • Share it – have the necessary line managers received a copy?

Stage 2 – Communicating during

Once the event occurs, for example, a data center going offline or a rail network having to close a line for emergency services:

  • Locate the communicating plan. Check it’s the correct version. You don’t want to circulate an outdate or draft version. Make sure all master copies are marked FINAL.
  • Share the necessary messages developed in the communicating plan, for example, Health Warnings, with the list of contacts identified in stage one. This should include people in your company and external contacts, such as the media, local emergency forces, and support groups.
  • Confirm that they’ve received these communications. Expect obstacles, for example, faxes won’t work, email addresses are incorrect, and phone numbers are invalid. Again, as part of your prep work in stage 1, check on a regular basis that your communication details are correct.
  • Over-communicating v under-communicating

Stage 3 – Communicating after

It’s easy to assume that once the emergency is over, you can kick back. And you can do a certain degree.

However, you also need to follow up and see if all issues have been resolved.

Don’t underestimate the communications necessary after the failure is resolved.

This post-communications plan ensure that you tidy up any loose ends and reduce the likelihood of the issue repeating again.

The second benefit is that it demonstrates to others that you’re concerned that everything has been resolved for them and, if necessary, you’re ready to answer any questions.

It’s a nice way to reestablish trust and build credibility.

Thousands of templates to jump start your project

Acceptance Test Plan

Contingency Plan

Software Development Templates

Acquisition Plan

Conversion Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Action Plan

Cost Benefit Analysis

Software Testing

API Documentation

Database Design

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

Audience Analysis

Datasheet

Statement of Work

Availability Plan

Deployment Plan

System Administration Guide

Bill of Materials

Design Document

System Boundary

Business Case

Disaster Recovery Plan

System Design Document

Business Continuity

Disposition Plan

System Specifications

Business Plan

Documentation Plan

Technical Writing Templates

Business Process

Employee Handbook

Test Plan

Business Requirements

Error Message Guide

Training Plan

Business Rules

Expression of Interest

Transition Plan

Capacity Plan

Fact Sheet

Troubleshooting Guide

Case Study

Feasibility Study

Use Case

Change Management Plan

Functional Requirements

User Guide

Communication Plan

Grant Proposal

Verification and Validation Plan

Concept of Operations

Implementation Plan

White Papers

Concept Proposal

Installation Plan

Work Instructions

Configuration Management Plan

Interface Control Document

Software Development Templates

Acceptance Test Plan

Maintenance Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Acquisition Plan

Market Research

Software Testing

Action Plan

Marketing Plan

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

API Documentation

Needs Statement

Statement of Work

Audience Analysis

Operations Guide

System Administration Guide

Availability Plan

Policy Manual

System Boundary

Bill of Materials

Project Plan

System Design Document

Business Case

Proposal Manager Templates

System Specifications

Business Continuity

Proposal Template

Technical Writing Templates

Business Plan

Quality Assurance Plan

Test Plan

Business Process

Release Notes

Training Plan

Business Requirements

Request for Proposal

Transition Plan

Business Rules

Risk Management Plan

Troubleshooting Guide

Capacity Plan

Scope of Work

Use Case

Case Study

Security Plan

User Guide

Change Management Plan

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Verification and Validation Plan

Communication Plan

Setup Guide

White Papers

Concept of Operations

Social Media Policy

Work Instructions

Concept Proposal

Contingency Plan

 

Configuration Management Plan

Conversion Plan