Information drives the collaboration that’s necessary for project success. Team members need the right data at the right time to do their jobs, and stakeholders want information about how the project is going and what’s coming next. Building and maintaining a healthy communication strategy can be even more challenging in facility startup projects since these efforts are often long in duration, complex, expensive, high profile, highly impactful to the organization and its workforce, and potentially high risk.
If you’re ramping up for a new facility launch, consider these four tips to ensure your messaging delivers the information people need in a way that’s understandable, timely, and appropriate.
1: Be mindful of stakeholders’ technical expertise.
Project teams frequently need to convey technical information as part of a new facility launch, some of which could be highly complex. Unfortunately, many of your stakeholders likely don’t have the background or expertise to understand what your messages truly mean. To bridge the gap and avoid confusion, you might choose to selectively share technical information with those functional areas that are equipped to make use of it while letting others know the details are available if they’re interested in knowing more. Or you may opt to add explanatory information, such as legends, glossaries, or other tools, to help those without a technical background accurately interpret your communications.
2: Provide regular updates on expectations.
Some stakeholder expectations will remain the same from start to finish. Other expectations will evolve, a few may disappear entirely, and new expectations could emerge as the project moves through its lifecycle. Managing when and how participants expect key moments to happen should be an ongoing priority within your communication strategy. As new expectations become a reality, you can let project participants know. The same holds true when expectations change, or a milestone is reached and its related expectations are no longer relevant. This keeps everyone aware of the project’s current state and lets them know what they can expect moving forward.
3: Balance transparency and confidentiality.
It can be difficult to keep stakeholders apprised of project issues without divulging information inappropriately. Striking the right balance will depend heavily on the organization, the type of facility you’re launching, and the makeup of your stakeholder base. Senior leaders are probably already privy to any sensitive information. However, as you work with production line staff, those in administrative roles, or users in the various functional areas, you may need to limit the data you share. Strive to provide information stakeholders need to remain engaged, supportive, and aware of potential issues or opportunities, but err on the side of prudence when it comes to potentially sensitive data elements. You should also reassess your communication protocols throughout the project to ensure you’re always weighing transparency and confidentiality.
4: Understand and adapt to cultural elements.
Teams want to provide useful project updates and other information, but that can be a challenge if cultural or language barriers exist within the stakeholder base. What may be considered witty or sarcastic in one group could come across as crass or flippant in another. These issues are common during facility startup projects because many site launches involve users from diverse locations and may even encompass entirely cultural elements if your firm is expanding into new, unfamiliar markets. Solicit input from representatives of your various stakeholder groups to identify potentially sensitive topics or phrases that don’t carry over well from one culture to another. If your project messaging strategy relies on translation support or other localization services, spot-check their outputs from time to time to ensure everything is on-message, accurate, and appropriate.