The Communications Matrix Revolutions

“Everything that has a beginning has an end,” is the Oracle’s final comment to Neo. Although there have been continuous rumours about a sequel to the Matrix movie trilogy, I assure you, this blog post is the end of ‘The Communications Matrix’.

As explained in the previous post, ‘The Communications Matrix’ is an aid to logical thinking and a means whereby a project may be structured and described for analytical purposes. It further develops the ‘management-by-objectives’ approach. You can connect the dots at the end of this chapter, where a beginning is added to the end.

First of all, I’d like to add the means and costs, assumptions and performance indicators to ‘The Communications Matrix’.

Indicator: This helps answer the question, “How will I know, if my objective or result has been achieved?” This is a measure, preferably numerical, of a variable that provides a reasonably simple and reliable basis for assessing achievement, change or performance.

Assumption: These are external factors outside the project management’s control that may affect the progress or success of a project or campaign.

Means: Physical and non-physical resources that are necessary to execute the planned activities and to manage the project.

Costs: The financial translation of all means identified.

This is how a Communications Matrix might look:

Description Indicators Assumptions
Communications goal Indicator
Specific communications objective Indicator Assumption
Communications result Indicator Assumption
Activity Means Costs Assumption

And this is a simplified Communications Matrix for an internal communications strategy to improve employee engagement.

Description Indicators Assumptions
Communications Goal: Produce a cultural transformation within the organisation, moving from a command-and-control leadership style to one based on collaboration and dialogue
EOS results

Specific communications objective:
Improve employee engagement to share their ideas, comments and questions.
Specific survey results comparison before and after implementation Goal not affected by changes on Board level
Communications result:Employees
– submitted new ideas

– responded positively to new communication culture

– improved project management performance

– Number of ideas submitted- Higher employee retention rate

– Number of concluded projects

High Social Media affinity among employees
Activities: – Live streaming of CEO conference on the intranet (including voting, polling, virtual raising hands and questions)

– Employee blog system

– Idea forum to submit new ideas

– Establishing collaboration platform

IT support, training, awareness campaign, etc. (list providers, number of internal support staff, etc.) If applicable in Euros, US dollars, etc. – IT compatibility- No extraordinary budget restrictions
Click here to view the Matrix in a new tab in your browser.

This Communications Matrix is based on a case study of computer networking giant Cisco, and aims only to give you a very brief overview. Assumptions don’t need to be included, but are helpful to prepare for some eventualities. Moreover, means and costs should be as detailed as possible.

The beginning is the end is the beginning

Establishing ‘The Communications Matrix’ is only possible after a thorough analysis of problems and objectives, as in a problem tree analysis. In other words, before Neo could enter The Matrix, he had to be aware of the existence of a problem that led ultimately to it.

If you think this sound bizarre, you’ve never witnessed debate between a philosopher and a psychologist on the mind-body problem. I have, and it took me several excellent monitors to re-enter the real world. Hope I made it back….

The Overseas Development Institute describes problem tree analysis as central to many forms of project planning. Although it shouldn’t come as a surprise to the business management world – it was conceived by the development agencies.

Problem tree analysis finds solutions by mapping out the cause–and-effect of an issue. It’s like a mind map, but with more structure. Comparing mind-mapping with problem tree analysis is probably unfair, as a mind map simply tries to provide a minimum overview of brainstorming. On the other hand, the tree requires a much broader in-depth analytical outcome.

In a few short steps, problem tree analysis works like this:

  1. List all problems that come to mind. These issues need to be carefully identified: they should already exist, not be possible, imagined or future ones. The problem is an existing negative situation, not the absence of a solution.
  2. Identify a core problem (this may involve considerable trial-and-error before settling on one).
  3. Determine which problems are ‘causes’ and which are ‘effects.’ (It sounds easy, but always leads to confusion.)
  4. Arrange in hierarchy both causes and effects, i.e., how do the causes relate to each other – which one leads to the other, etc.

A problem tree can be converted into an objectives tree by rephrasing each of the problems into positive desirable outcomes – as if the problem had already been treated. In this way, root causes and consequences are turned into root solutions, and key project or influencing entry points are quickly established.

The first column of ‘The Communications Matrix’ (activities, results, specific objectives and communication goal) will be fed with the results of these analyses providing an extremely powerful tool to develop a strategy.

Not directly a part of ‘The Communications Matrix’ are the following tools:

•    Time frame
•    Resource planning
•    Task planning (Who’s responsible for what?)

It goes without saying:  no project should start without these tools.

Trinity: “I was looking for an answer. It’s the question that drives us, Neo. It’s the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.”
Neo: “What is the Matrix?”
Trinity: “The answer is out there, Neo, and it’s looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to.”

The thing is, you really have to want the results ‘The Comms Matrix’ offers. Do you?

Sources: MIT, ODI, DFID, UN, UK National Archives
Thanks to Jeremy Gray for editing my text. Jeremy is a journalist, photographer and ‚Berliner‘

Ein Gedanke zu “The Communications Matrix Revolutions

  1. A useful framework, presented well. Useful at a couple of levels:

    1) For a junior practitioner, it offers the ability to integrate objectives and tasks simply and easily (and if in excel, in an easy to manipulate sort of way)

    2) For a more accomplished pro–a way to allow easy comparison between projects. Indeed, this is something that one could use retrospectively to dissect earlier projects in preparation for sales meetings or job interviews.

    Mike Klein
    http://intersectionblog.wordpress.com

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