Importance of communication in change management
Working in a role that puts me in contact with many people involved with change projects, I always find it interesting to hear how many varied thoughts there are about the right time to tell people about the importance of communication in change management.
I’ve met managers that talk about change before anything has been formally planned and agreed. Then there are others that don’t tell people what is going on until far too late. Some sadly share snippets of information that leads to far too many assumptions or unnecessary concerns.
Change isn’t something that should or can be kept a secret; it needs to be talked about sooner rather than later. Once the decision to change has been made and the project is live, communicating details of the change should be a priority.
I always remember back to my early working days and working for a company that decided to relocate. It was a difficult time, redundancies were on the cards and many people were going to be affected. We all wanted and needed information, but the management team were not forthcoming.
Well, I’m not so sure. Recently I worked for a large organisation in the finance sector where lots of change was taking place. I noticed immediately that the situation resembled my experience of 25 years ago. Chinese whispers, managers carrying fat files, meetings after meetings and no sight of any clear messages about what was going on.
By not communicating we do create communication, but not the kind we need!
Send reinforcements, we are going to advance!
Send reinforcements we are going to our aunts!
Send three endorsements we are going to France!
Send three and fourpence , we are going to a dance!
My grandfather told me the above, and I’m sure it will raise a smile, but on a more serious note it is a classic example of Chinese whispers; people hearing what they want to hear or what they think they have heard when information isn’t distributed in a formal and consistent way. This happens so often in business, somewhere along the line someone misinterprets a piece of information and things can get out of hand.
To avoid some or all of the above, change leaders or sponsors need to spend time on a communication plan to include the following:
- The reasons for change with context, purpose and the need
- A vision of the ‘to be’ state
- Clear and simple messages, delivered with integrity
- Consistent, frequent communication through a variety of channels
- Clear routes for questions
This is by no means an exhaustive list; it’s a starter for 5! The importance of communication in change management is one of the toughest issues for organisations, but it can be done well if it’s dealt with leaving no room for people to make up their own messages. Spare no detail, be authentic and if there is silence use this as an indicator that more communication is needed, it should not be misinterpreted for acceptance.
What do you consider should be included in a communication plan? I would be very interested to hear your views on this subject and learn more about your experience.
To find out more about how CITI have worked with organisations to develop the importance of communication in change management please contact us on 01908 283600.