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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

Project Communications Part 9 – Communication Methods – Combining Push and Pull Communications

project, program, portfolio, management
One of the challenges of automation is the tendency to always add reports, never remove them.

“Expansion means complexity, and complexity decay.” Parkinson's Third Law

“Avoid complexities. Make everything as simple as possible.” Henry Maudslay

Overwhelming people with information is not the purpose of communication. The purpose of a Communication Management Plan is to convey the truth about the project. That is a profound idea that many project managers drift away from as the pressures of the project are felt. They are encouraged to present a version of the truth, to round off the rough edges of the truth and to not provide all the details of the truth.


Because projects are difficult and project managers have bosses too. Bosses who probably don’t know much about projects and certainly don’t want to look bad in front of their bosses!

In my first post on this series I made the point that project managers live in a binary world. You deliver on time or you don’t. You deliver within budget or you don’t. You delivered the requirements, or you didn’t.

This is completely different than the world most managers live in, where performance is determined by qualitative measures that can be manipulated and interpreted in different ways. Actual output is often difficult to ascertain.

So how does the Communication Management Plan help the project manager? By establishing the processes that will be followed before the project starts! These processes are baselined as part of the Project Management Plan and as such are now artifacts that can’t be changed without going through the change control process. As I have stated in numerous posts over the past several years, this completely changes the dynamic for the project manager. Any powerful stakeholder must get changes agreed to through the formal process, not by pressuring the project manager.

The most effective communication plans contain both push and pull communications. You determine the needs of the stakeholders and then group them according to those needs. You develop a schedule that meets the needs of those groupings and then push the information to them. For those stakeholders (like executives) who just need summary data, you can provide them that in the actual communication. For those who need more detail, you embed a link to a database or site so they can pull as much detail as needed.

The plan will describe the cadence of communications as well as the level of detail provided to each grouping of stakeholders, all controlled by the project manager as established by the plan. In this way, each grouping of stakeholders gets the information they need when they need it.

Next, I’ll explain the RACI matrix and how to use it.


If you subscribe to this blog and don’t normally go to my website, you should check it out! There is a tremendous amount of content about project and general management issues. I also started a YouTube Channel that focuses on those same topics, but because the medium is different, I can get into much greater detail as well as make it more conversational in nature. That content is also linked to on my website. Let me know what you think!


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