The Funnel Approach

Several years ago I was mentoring a colleague in project planning and she expressed her frustration at getting a project from the concept stage to the final stage. At each point in the process, there were too many changes to incorporate, so it felt like the project was going in circles rather than moving toward completion. I introduced her to my funnel approach to communication projects.

At the beginning of a communications project, all ideas are welcome, the wide part of the funnel collects all the ideas and input from a broad cross-section of the organization. This is a great way to start a project. However, as the project progresses, the input and review process must become narrower, or the project will never be completed. This can be especially challenging in an organization that has a collaborative culture.

Start by identifying the steps in the input process, so that people can see where their input is welcome. Then detail who will review the project at each checkpoint. Have the review input narrow until the final check. Sometimes just seeing the process and checkpoints on the schedule will give those “extra” collaborators confidence that there is a quality process in place. However, at times the project manager may have to develop a thick skin and keep pushing through, because continuing to open a project to new input throughout the process may mean the project is stuck in an endless cycle of revisions.

If you find that the funnel approach is not working in your organization, even when the review cycle is shared and input is solicited, then it is possible that there are other dynamics at work, such as lack of clarity on the purpose of the project or territorial disputes over decision-making authority.


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