Communication is one of the most important aspects of Change Management. One of the frequently heard complaints regarding any change effort is the lack of adequate communication. Lack of communication can lead to “rumors” which send incorrect messages to the organization and thus reduce productivity and increase resistance to change efforts. Lack of communication can also lead to a poor change since the entire collective knowledge of the organization is not utilized for the change effort.
In order to communicate effectively, we need to create a communication plan. Communication plan is a document that helps with planning, deploying, and monitoring the communication to the key stakeholders in a structured way. Without a structured approach, we would leave the communication and hence the change effort to chance. Note that communication is not one-way (telling people what the change is about) but two-way: we also need to listen to the people we are communicating with and modify the communication and/or the change that is being deployed to meet the needs of the stakeholders. A communication plan addresses the following topics:
What to communicate?
Who to communicate with?
Who should do the communication?
When to communicate?
How to communicate?
And finally the feedback and monitoring mechanism.
Let’s briefly talk about each of the above topics.
What to Communicate?
You need to first determine what is the message you want to communicate? In the beginning of a project or program, you may want to communicate the importance of the program, why it is being initiated and what is in it for the company and stakeholders. Clearly communicating the burning platform can be critical to the change effort. During the course of the program, you need to communicate the status of the program and any interim actions that the stakeholders need to take. If there are success stories, you may want to share those to reinforce the program benefits to the organization. At the end of the program, you need to summarize the findings and share any lessons learned. It is important that you tune the communication to your audience and address what is in it for them – rather than to have the same common message to all audiences. Of course, the messages throughout the organization need to be consistent.
Who to Communicate With?
You need to identify all the key stakeholders – those that can impact the change effort and those that are impacted by the change effort. Special focus needs to be on stakeholders who are influential and those who may have to make the biggest change in the change effort. It is a good idea to brainstorm with your team to identify all the stakeholders for a program. Other tools like SIPOC can also help identify the stakeholders.
Who should do the Communication?
You need to identify the right person in the organization to do the communication. Sometimes, the right person could be the immediate manager of the person to whom we need to communicate or the communication may have to come from the CEO of the company. Depending on the message that is being communicated and the importance of the communication, you need to select the suitable person to do the communication. For example, if the message is adherence to safety which may be critical and important for the company, then it is probably appropriate for the CEO to convey the message to the entire organization. If the change is only marginal and pertains to a small group of people, then the immediate manager may be the most suitable person to communicate the change. In some instances, there may need to be multiple people in the organization doing the same communication.
When to Communicate?
Communication should always be proactive. It is better for the communication to come from official channels rather than through the grapevine. Before you plan to make a major change, it is a good idea to communicate about it so that people are not caught unawares. One of the biggest reasons for resistance is when people are caught by surprise. Sometimes, the communication has to be repeated in order for it to be effective.
How to Communicate?
You should pick the right media or mode for communication. Examples of different means of communication are: email, phone, one-on-one meeting, town-hall meeting, noticeboards, corporate newsletters, website etc. Some of these modes of communication such as one-on-one meeting are more personal and should be used whenever the communication requires a change in behavior. If the communication is just to inform about some program progress then other modes of communication such as email could be used. Your communication should include different types of learning of stakeholders: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Sometimes, you may need to use multiple modes of communication just so that the message sinks in to the organization.
Finally, you should always monitor the organization to see if the communication was received correctly and if there are any further unanswered questions or queries that the organization has. This feedback mechanism could be through formal surveys or just informal discussion initiated by the manager or HR to understand the concerns and “frustrations” of the organization. You should always have a mechanism to use this feedback information to further refine future communication messages to the organization or make changes to the change effort itself.
Sigma Magic software has a communication plan template that you can use to fill out and use for your communication efforts. For more details, visit https://www.sigmamagic.com.
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