Martin Summerhayes (martinsummerhay) wrote,
Martin Summerhayes

Management of Change - The Art and Science of Communications

"The basic building block of good communications is the feeling that every human being is unique and of value." — Unknown

Further to my last post on Management of Change on the 13th, this post concerns the next section in The Overall Map of Management of Change. That is "Communication".

I have always been taught that Communication is an art, not a science. However, I feel that it is in fact both. The following are what I consider to be the key areas to focus on when you are developing your change agenda to help your communications succeed:

c1. Simplify the message:
Really think about the key message/s you want to convey to describe the the changes. I like to use the analogy of "how would you describe it to your "parent / relation / friend". In my case, my mum is completely non-business engaged. She has never worked in a corporate environment, so if you start talking to her about what is going on, you have to relate it you her world. In effect simplifying the message.

c2. Clarity of content :
Content is what people are looking for. Not reams and reams of details, rather people want to know "whats is in it for them". I like to put myself in their shoes - in fact, for one change programme, we literally drew a line on the floor and stated that those on the opposite side of the line were the customers. Get rid of the management bulls**t language that we can all use.

c3. Consistency of message from all involved :
This is absolutely critical and key to the success of the communications. I would personally spend more time on this, than almost any other part of the communications plan. I have seen change programmes fail because key change agents - the topic for the next article - are not consistent in the messaging they are giving out. One successful change programme put a workshop together for the change programme team AND the change agents. We spent 3 days together - away from the work office environment. The first day was non-work related, doing team building exercises. This was to develop a sense of unity and cohesion amongst the people involved. We did logrolling; archery; raft building and blind man's obstacle course. The next two days was spent going through the change programme and getting everyone to the same level of understanding. Work shopping scenarios; discussing the change curve [described in a previous article]; developing counter arguments and generally ensuring a consistency of message.

c4. Structured by audience profile :
"Everyone is different" and so is the audience you are going to communicate with. You need to take a leaf out of the Marketing world in terms of profiling. What is the demographics of the audience? Age; position in the company; role they do; do they like e:mail - phone - face-2-face - letters - posters - web sites - social media - videos? There is no good using social media if the security restrictions in the company forbid its use. One change programme put up a Facebook page, but Facebook access was banned at work!

c6. Fluent; Continuous and Cumulative:
Why do adverts on TV work? Think for a moment. They are short; snappy; they connect to their audience, but also, they a fluent, you see then multiple times and the effect is cumulative. For example - Just because you decide that an e:mail announcement is the critical way to communicate a change aspect, sending the e:mail will not do it. 90% of people will delete it and the 10% that don't will read it and then delete it and then forget about it. The average, and I do mean the average, number of times you need to say something BEFORE it sticks in your memory, is 7,. Yes, 7 times..... So you need to think in terms of "7 times the message" for every element of the changes you are communicating.

c7. Breakthrough Messages :
As part of the Comms planning, you need to identify key milestones that need to be achieved. O the bad of these, you need to be able to raise the communications activities by do "a sudden, dramatic, and important development" message - hence why I call it Breakthrough Messages....

c8. Words match actions:
This is such an obvious one, I think before putting it in. However, I have seen change programmes where the key messages do NOT match the actions. Take for instance the need to reduce stationary costs. The message went out - "save of stationary"; the action was - "centralise all requests"; the result was - a 4 fold increase in costs as people ordered everything they needed from the central source, rather than the previous method of having a "stationary cupboard, with a admin person ordering on everyone's behalf.

c9. Involvement Plan:
That’s the formal term. I call it how to Sell Upwards & Outwards. Simply, you need to get those in the senior management tree to buy into the change programme. To get them to believe it is THEIR plan, their change programme. That they thought of it. They orchestrated it. That the results will positively reflect off their persona. One example, is we got the senior managers into a 2 day event; we asked members of the senior leadership team to walk through the rest of the audience, key changes of the programme [in effect making it personal to them]; and finally we got a massive “I sign here commitment board” onto the stage and got every person to sign their name on the board. We then hung it in the reception of the HQ office, so that every time they came into the office, they saw their committed signature in front of them!

c10. Success Stories
This is where you can work with / leverage a corporate comms team. You want to capture early wins and communicate these so that the task does not feel so daunting. This is the positive conformation part of the comms stream, showing that things are changing, working and developing.

c11. Feedback Mechanism:
The final element is the how do people feedback on the success, challenges and issues? Web site; mail box; suggestion box; events; meetings; social media? Capture the feedback. It is golden nuggets of insight that will help.

I leave you with this quote from one of my favourite authors.......

"The less people know, the more they yell."
— Seth Godin

Happy Thursday

Tags: management of change, seth godin

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