Communicating change is one of the most misunderstood functions of change leadership.
Communication during an organizational change is the connective tissue between the strategy, the people leading the change and those affected by the change. The purpose of the communication is to assist those affected by the change to successfully perform their duties in the changed environment.
There are many facets to this communication:
- link the change to the strategy of the organization
- allay fears
- respond to resistance
- call to action
- the list goes on
A few things to consider:
The Supervisors Carry the Message
As an employee, your direct supervisor is the most trusted communication source. Additionally, they naturally are communicating with our change constituents on a daily basis. Change communication should be primarily delivered by the supervisors that make the organization run. The actions of the change team must empower and equip these local communication experts for success.
Supply and Localize
The task of the change team is to supply communication information and assist in localizing the information for each constituent group. Global statements about the change are fine but listening and understanding occurs when the information is translated into how the change will affect things locally. For a large, long-term change implementation, communication content should be provided to managers and supervisors for delivery to their teams on a regular bi-weekly basis. If you line up these messages, they should tell a congruent story over time.
The Communication Plan is a Byproduct
Communication plans in the traditional sense (message, medium, date) are nice to have but are not the place to start. The communication task list is merely the result of a great communication approach. The communication plan is fueled by the analysis of change impact which matches specific change items with the constituents who will experience the change item. The impact on their work, and their reaction, determines the content of your communication.
What medium should be used for change communication – email, in-person, social media, video? The answer is all of them. The core message must be formatted for all the potential channels.
Your change communication should appear as a starburst with multiple tendrils reaching everyone in their own way and in their own language, providing specifics as needed. Like July 4th fireworks the crowd says “wow!” at the big explosion but the beauty is in the various colors and designs that expand and reach down over the entire crowd.
Tail Wagging the Dog
A good communication approach enforces a discipline. Very often, the promise made to communicate causes project activities to be completed. If we have the option of not communicating, it’s tempting to put off the work when things get difficult.
The communication approach also provides valuable feedback to the project team and often results in redesign that increases potential for success.
With Constituent Hub we know who is affected by our change. We can group these individuals in numerous ways in order to tailor communication messages. We can determine frequency and level of communication based on interest and impact – what we call the Communication Power Map. With Change Impact Analysis we identify changes and how our constituents will react to those changes. The communication needs are built into a plan that can be executed by the change team and communication experts. Communicating about more complex changes in a targeted way over time improves adoption.