Leaked information is all over the place, from rumors about a star pitcher’s potential injury to which fast food chains are talking about a merger. But sometimes PMP®s have their own leaks to worry about. Project information may be inadvertently disclosed before it’s finalized, or a project team member might reveal details that haven’t yet been approved for public disclosure. In both cases, the Project Team will probably want to take steps to lock down the leak and conduct any damage control that might be necessary. The team may also determine that updated procedures or communication protocols are also in order.
If you’re worried your Project Team could experience an information leak one day, see if your team is ready to take the appropriate action.
Respond. It’s rarely a good idea to simply let leaked information float around in the wild without issuing some kind of formal response. Even if the data that was leaked is accurate and doesn’t run afoul of the organization’s confidentiality practices, you still want to ensure that end users, sponsors, and everyone else involved in the project knows where legitimate news should normally be coming from. Sometimes, a simple communication that acknowledges the leak is enough. It may also be good to provide stakeholders with contact information for a designated spokesperson on the team so they can confirm the veracity of information they receive in the future.
Correct erroneous information if necessary (and possible). Depending on the nature of the leaked data, the Project Team may need to fix inaccuracies. Unless the corrected information is too sensitive to release, consider distributing the revised details as quickly as possible. Even a low-key, informal communication to stakeholders advising them that unconfirmed or pending data is floating around will give them a heads-up that information they hear through the grapevine may not be correct or current.
If the leaked data is confidential and wasn’t approved for distribution, you should immediately contact the organization’s leadership team to determine how to proceed. You don’t want to create a scenario that further undermines the company’s strategic position or that complicates its business partnerships.
Find the source of the leak. Was it someone inside the Project Team who disclosed something they shouldn’t have? An over-eager sponsor who didn’t realize they shouldn’t act as a mouthpiece for the team? An unwitting vendor with lax communication protocols? Data has been released without authorization from just about every source you can think of, so don’t develop a remedy until the team has confirmed exactly where the leaked information originated. You may even discover there actually was no leak, and the rumors making the rounds are nothing more than guesswork and gossip.
Determine why the leak occurred and create a solution to prevent it from happening again. It may be necessary to bolster procedures or retrain employees or business partners on the proper handling of project information. Developing a tighter communication strategy could be the right course of action, one that creates a simple framework to authorize the release of project data or that limits which team members can act as an official spokesperson.
You may also discover that the leak actually points to larger communication issues within the Project Team that will need to be addressed to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again. The right solution will be highly dependent on the factors surrounding the initial leak, and the possible corrective actions vary widely. You may determine that the circle of stakeholders who receive official project status updates should be widened to be more inclusive, or that existing vendor contracts need to be augmented to include more stringent information-disclosure language.