Can the way communication is handled cause problems in a change programme?

The short answer is yes it can, however that would make for a very short post. It is not possible to cover all of the elements of good communication in one blog, so this is a taster on a theme I will come back to in the future.

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

One of the main mantra’s for any good change manager or shared service architect is communication, communication, communication. It is the people who are involved in the project or affected by it who can make it work or cause it to fail.

The projects that succeed have managed this part of the change process effectively by making sure that the right people are communicated with, at the right time, with the right information.

 

 

So who are the right people?

Here is a list of people who could be in the communication plan, depending on the project (please comment and add any you feel I have missed):

  1. people who have initiated the project and started it off
  2. main decision makers
  3. project sponsor
  4. project board
  5. project team
  6. management team
  7. staff
  8. unions
  9. customers
  10. stakeholders
  11. suppliers
  12. national bodies responsible for monitoring or validating the area of work being changed  or shared.

The trick, though is knowing what to communicate to each of these groups, when and in what format.

When is the right time?

All too often I hear of projects where all that people get is information about what has happened with long intervals of silence in between each communication. This is a prime breeding ground for rumours to become the main source of information about what is thought to be going to happen which then leads to the very people you want to be engaged and positive about the project being negative and difficult.

It is, therefore, important to have a regular, planned, timed and promoted methods of keeping all of the key groups linked to the project informed. I would suggest that this is at least monthly – but if the project is moving fast this should be increased to weekly or even daily updates. It is then important to keep the promises made about this communication programme even if the only thing to communicate is that there is nothing to communicate – although often this can be helped by saying what has been done as part of the process being  undertaken even if the potential outcomes cannot be shared. This communication should start from as near to the time that the project is initiated as possible.

It is also important to make the communication a two-way process – not just giving out information but showing how people can participate in, and influence, the change that is happening. A good change programme gets the people who are going to be involved in, or effected by, the changes that are happening participating at as many stages as possible. This is especially important at the start of the process as I have often found that  some of the most innovative ideas come from the people who are most closely involved in delivering or receiving the services provided.

This is not to say that the final outcomes of the change programme will be decided by everyone involved. It does mean, though, that when the options are presented to the project sponsor, board and decision makers that they will have the validation of the input from all of the people who have been part of the consultation element of the communication programme.

What is the right information?

It is information that they need to know at the time they need to know it and it should be presented in the places and formats that suit the people the communication is for. My recommendation is that you should give as much information as you can without hindering the confidential elements of the project. This will give the project credibility and can be referred to at the times when there is not very much detail to be shared.  It won’t stop the rumours, but it will help to maintain better relationships with the people involved.

I have listed below a range of methods of sharing the information (again this is not an exhaustive list), and not all methods will be suitable for each project:

  1. letters
  2. consultation documents
  3. newsletters – print or online
  4. internet pages
  5. intranet pages
  6. Twitter
  7. Facebook
  8. blogs
  9. linked-in
  10. staff meeting
  11. public meetings
  12. informal networks
  13. formal networks
  14. displays
  15. open days
  16. stakeholder meetings
  17. meetings with suppliers

Each should have a clear and simple method for anyone receiving the information to respond with a clear protocol for how and when the responses are dealt with. It is especially useful to develop a range of FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) to help with this process and make sure they are easily accessible.

I would be interested to hear your views on communication and what has worked for you.

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