The communication plan

Successful organisational change obviously requires extensive work, but here are 10 key things to keep in mind when planning, announcing, implementing, and communicating a change initiative:

  • Remember that there's no one perfect way to communicate change. Change is uncomfortable, and adapting to change is messy. The perfect Gantt chart does not a painless change experience make. Why? Because tasks are easy to list, but behaviour and long-held habits are not easy to change. Gather outside information, solicit perspectives, and adapt the approaches for your organisation and group.

  • Start by asking yourself what exactly is changing and why. Too many programmes are heavy on the jargon and light on the substance of what the buzz phrases mean in the day-to-day reality of your organisation's people. You have to make that link. For example, what does it mean when you say the organisation needs to be more responsive? What behaviours characterise a so-called flat organisation? Go to the root of what you're trying to achieve from an organisational behaviour perspective, and give the jargon life.

  • Know what results you want, ideally, from both the change initiative and the communication programme or tactic. What's the call to action for the communication programme? What's the call to action for the specific communication tactic? What systemic or operations changes are under way that provide the framework for the desired results and behaviours?

  • Include communication strategists at the very beginning of the discussions about the change, on the strategic team from the start. Too often, qualified communicators are involved only after a backlash is in full force, when the leaks and rumour mills are rampant. A corporate lawyer or an MBA with PowerPoint skills is not qualified to understand how people in the organisation will respond to change and what information they'll need. Their particular expertise is most likely legal requirement and cost cutting, not communication.

  • Share information with employees as soon as possible. There's a real dilemma in public companies, where investor communication is a priority and employees hear about a merger or reorganisation on their car radio while commuting to work. Once fear and insecurity are heightened, you waste a lot of time getting back to a place of order, understanding and productivity and many people head for their desks to update CVs and to call recruiters.

  • Keep in mind that quantity is fine, but quality and consistency are crucial. Many CEOs and managers believe the maxim 'you can't communicate too much', but you can communicate too much insigificant or insensitive information. You can't communicate too much significant, substantial information.

  • Longevity. Remember that a change effort starts with an announcement or a merger or change initiative. Many leaders and managers underestimate the length of time required by a change cycle. That's why numerous reports indicate poor performance following many IPOs, mergers, change initiatives, etc. Just as Rome wasn't built in a day, neither do people and organisations change in a week, or even a year. Think of it as changing some very ingrained habits; that's what you're doing.

  • Remember to use a variety of communication tools and methods. Some organisations make an enormous mistake in using only one vehicle, such as e-mail or the company intranet site.

  • Don't confuse process - visioning, chartering change teams, planning, endless PowerPoint presentations - with communication. While these meetings and processes can be communication vehicles if designed mindfully and handled in the context of a broader programme, they aren't adequate to meet change communication needs.

  • Give people multiple opportunities to share concerns, ask questions, and offer ideas, and make following up with answers and updates a top priority. The more people are involved in the process, the fewer you'll have walking out the door or worse, staying and acting as internal saboteurs.

Source : Inc.