How to Calculate Communication Channels? This doesn’t seem like a question that actually needs an entire blog for an answer. This can just be done by applying a simple formula n (n-1) /2. Even I was under the same impression till I noticed the number of questions from PMP® aspirants popping in our Forum ‘how to calculate communication channels.’ The confusion mainly surrounded around what is the value of ‘n.’ Some part of the confusion can be attributed to their way PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition defines the value of n and the way practice test puts the case in front of PMP® aspirants.
Page 292 PMBOK® Guide, Fifth Edition Page
“The total number of potential communication channels is n (n – 1) /2, where n represents the number of stakeholders. For example, a project with 10 stakeholders has 10 (10 – 1) /2 = 45 potential communication channels”
This statement makes prompts a PMP® aspirant to think that he needs to consider the stakeholders to calculate the number of communication channels, then the test taker start wondering, does he need to consider Project Manager too, while putting the value of n; also is there a need to consider the Project team members when calculating the number of communication channels (n). The answer is yes, you need to consider whoever is allowed to communicate with the group, and you need to consider all the entities that get impacted by the project and participate in the communication.
Once during a session one of the test takers asked me how can I recommend to include PM in the communication channel calculation when PMBOK® is only referring to stakeholders? I realized then that the problem is bigger which requires an immediate attention on the definition of stakeholder:
“An individual, group, or organization who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project.”
Stakeholders include everyone, but many times when we talk in the projects we refer term stakeholders for people who are affected by project, but not commonly form a part of the project team. This practice is quite acceptable, but when we go for an exam we need to stick to the definition of stakeholders, since this is an acceptable practice. You may find a question where project team members, project manager and stakeholder are identified separately.
Let’s get into the details of the communication channel, if we have four entities who can communicate, how many communication channels would there be? Instead of using the formula, let’s count them.
How many are they? 6? Now see what the formula tells us 4 (4-1) /2 = 4*3/2 = 6
Did you notice the use of this formula after you are done with your PMP® exam? The intent is to communicate the complexity of communication in numeric term, if you have a high number of communication channels it is very likely it will result in many communication problems. You may wonder what to do, if I have 20 people in the team I will have 20*19/2 = 190 communication channels, you as a project manager can do, you can bring some process in between which blocks some of the communication channels, like you have created two teams of 9 people where each team communicate inside freely but for outside they have designated path.
I hope this blog helps you in clearing the doubt related to communication channels, my advice would be do not look PMP® exam math questions as just a memorization problem, rather take learning from it for your project management profession.