Compelling communications – the key to successful business change

Compelling communications are vital if your change programme is to be a success. Even if your business change involves a dry technology update, there will always be a people side of the story to tell.

Once you start thinking about this, you will find opportunities to create a real buzz about the changes ahead. Try injecting your next communication with our winning formula below.

Give your campaign a heart

Your campaign needs creative messaging that engages the people at the heart of the change. To achieve this, you should identify those impacted early on and involve them from the start.

We’ve had great feedback from our stakeholder workshops, which bring together representatives from different groups to discuss how the change will impact each of them. This is a good opportunity to find out what inspires your audience, what makes them proud to be part of your organisation and how they really feel about the planned change.

Armed with this information, you can begin to build an engaging campaign that targets everyone effectively.

Tell a good story

When presenting a business change, it’s natural to start talking about facts, numbers and financial benefits. Although important, this is unlikely to make your audience really care about your project or feel inspired to change their behaviour.

For more impact, you should aim to tell a story that makes the change relevant to your stakeholders’ day-to-day work. Opening with a personal experience that is relatable and clearly demonstrates the reason for change will grab their attention from the start. Visual language will also draw people in by encouraging them to picture the scenario in their head as you speak.

Once your audience understands the need for change, you can then set out your vision of the future by giving realistic examples of how things will be different. You should help people to imagine a positive new way of working that benefits them and the customers they care about. This is a far more effective way to inspire behavioural change than presenting cold facts.

Develop a distinct identity

A creative identity that can be applied across all communication materials will help your project stand out from the other programmes. To ensure this is engaging, you should work closely with your stakeholders to design something that visually represents what the change means for them.

We’ve seen particular success by creating illustrated characters which can bring the journey to life for different roles within the business. This ‘family’ of characters can be used to target key messages and benefits for different impacted roles. You can use them to build a story of how each role will transition through the change and how they will need to behave differently.

Attract attention with video

Video is a great way of getting across your key messages consistently and passionately to a global audience. We’ve seen successful engagement through videos that give senior leaders the opportunity to share their vision and address key concerns.

User-generated content is another effective way to tell the story from an employee’s perspective, which can feel more genuine to the audience. However, a clear brief is vital to set out the objectives and provide filming guidelines to ensure high-quality footage.

Take a look at our vBlog on user-generated content

If your change involves a new process, bringing it to life through animation can also really help people visualise how it will work. This can make your message far more engaging than more traditional process maps or wordy procedures, and can also be an opportunity to sell the benefits.

Afiniti has worked with many global organisations to develop compelling communications that make change stick. If you are interested in learning more, please get in touch.

October Business Change Digest

In this edition:

SPOTLIGHT

Starting a business change programme? Avoid the common pitfall.

AFINITI NEWS

Jay Dixon joins the team as Business Change Director.

INSIGHTS ROUNDUP

The latest from the Afiniti insights blog.

 

Spotlight by Anthony Edwards

You’re about to start your business change programme, but where’s your burning platform, and can you fight the fire?

Someone recently asked me ‘what’s the one key thing you would advise leaders embarking on a business change programme?’

This is a really big ask, There are so many elements to discuss and debate – each ‘change’ has different drivers, each industry its own nuances, and each company its own culture and all these elements play vital roles in shaping any programme.

Thinking about the past 15 years’ or so, and my experience helping clients in oil and gas, transport, logistics, pharmaceutical, and finance; There is one stand-out piece of universal wisdom I’d pass on to any client, which is to start at the beginning.  It sounds obvious, but let me explain.

Start at the beginning, and take it step by step

In my experience many organisations find themselves starting their change programme by creating the vision and strategy, before they’ve sufficiently ‘set the stage’.

Planning a business change programme can feel incredibly daunting. Time and again leaders are under pressure and already behind the curve – budget approval came through later than anticipated and the programme is running behind schedule and not completely formed, but there’s pressure to plough-on regardless.  It’s at this point that you need to take a step back and say ‘stop, let’s start from the beginning – together.  Let’s set ourselves up for success.’

So what should you be doing before you start strategising?

Preparation really is the key when it comes to change, so it’s no surprise that there are a number of models and methods for building and leading change programmes – and we can use elements from many of them. One I return to time and again is Kotter’s 8-Step Process which breaks the job down into logical, and most importantly, sequential steps.

 

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model for Successful Transformational Change

Source: Kotter and Cohen, The Heart of Change.

 

Step 1. Create a sense of urgency – Nail the ‘Why?’ and ‘Why now?’

For change to stick it really helps if the whole organisation accepts it and understands the drivers – especially if change has been attempted in the past and already had a number of false starts.

For this reason Kotter encourages us to start the change programme by creating a sense of urgency, so that we are not only focussing on the ‘why’ change, but also the ‘why change now?’

You need to develop a clear and compelling story – a way to articulate the common goal behind which everyone needs to align. The story needs to not only be socialised, but shouted from the rooftops, so everyone can understand why this change is taking place and get behind it. This sense of urgency, communicated by the leadership team, builds, spreads and fuels itself, and there you have what Kotter refers to as your burning platform.

It’s also worth noting that, at this stage it is crucial to sense check that your reason for change will be obviously compelling to everyone involved, not just the leadership team.  It may seem crystal clear to senior leaders, but once you start communicating about the change, and you go two or three steps out into the business, the people may not have a clue what you’re talking about!  A good question to ask is, if the story is not clear, does the responsibility for clarification lie with the reader or story teller?!

It’s equally important that all members of the leadership team can articulate this sense of urgency.  People need to receive the same message whether they ask the project team or their own management hierarchy, It is your senior sponsors’ responsibility to ensure that they’re all aligned.

 

Step 2. Create a guiding coalition from across the organisation

You’ve created the sense of urgency and now you need to shape a team who can continue building the momentum and lead the change programme.

Consider who will be strong and effective at leading the change on a daily basis – you’ll need influential people around the table, from a variety of different backgrounds.  These people will become key to embed the change later on.

Once you’ve formed your guiding coalition you need to check that the common goal is anchored in the benefit outcome  – and that you’ll be able to measure your success against this. Then you’re in a position to start creating the vision and strategy for the change programme.

 

One last thing

So you’ve nailed the ‘why’ and you have your guiding coalition ready to get started on your business change programme.  One final thing to consider:

Is the organisation currently ready and capable of change?

To be in the optimum position to be ready and receptive to change – your key business capabilities such as leadership, culture and competency should be functioning at a certain level.  If any one of these is out of kilter, you’re not giving yourself the best chance for the programme to succeed.

Afiniti’s 6LeverTM change readiness assessment tool measures where you are now against six key capabilities and outlines any gaps which need to be addressed, and what needs to be done to accelerate change and make it sustainable.

 

 

Take the Change Readiness Assessment now and find out if your organisation is ready for change.

 

I’d love to hear any experiences you’ve had with ‘setting the stage’ for business change.  Do you think there are any other pitfalls senior leaders should be mindful of when embarking on a business change programme?

Afiniti news: Jay Dixon joins the team as Business Change Director

Previously a Managing Partner at James and Carmichael Consulting (JCC), Jay has over twelve years’ consulting experience under his belt, as well as a background in operations and supply chain management where he started his career after graduating from Leeds University .

Jay is settling in to working life at Afiniti, so it seemed a good time to sit down with him and have a chat about his career to date, his areas of specialism and what he’s enjoying working on so far at Afiniti.

Read the full article.

Insights roundup: The latest from the Afiniti insights blog

 

If you’re thinking about cyber security, you should be thinking about behaviour change.

 

communications tools that last

 

Four ways to create communications tools that last.

 

 

Afiniti vBlog: Afiniti’s top tips for creating user-generated content.

 

 

If you’re thinking about cyber security, you should also think about behaviour change

It’s no longer an option to view cyber attacks as something that happens to someone else, some other organisation, or just a technical issue.  It’s now standard practice for all large organisations to have measures in place to protect themselves and their assets, and these measures often include an element of culture and behaviour change .

I’ve recently been involved in a project where I helped a client change the way their workforce viewed cyber security and embed a set of new highly-secure behaviours.

The project has been very successful and I’ve even found my own behaviour changing as a result – I’ve signed up for a password manager and my laptop is now a veritable fort knox!

So what do we mean by cyber security?

In its simplest terms, cyber security is the protection of an individual’s or organisation’s cyber assets.

To protect cyber assets you need to worry about physical security as well as cyber security.  This is where you need to think about the culture and behaviours of the organisation – there’s no point having great firewalls in place, if you leave the door to your server room open!

What is a cyber threat?

There are a number of different types of cyber threat, including state-sponsored attacks, insider threats, cybercrime, cyberterrorism, physical threats (staff members leaving doors or computers unlocked) and ‘hacktivism’ (hacking a system for social or political gain). Each company will have a different profile in terms of which of these threats are the most probable and how serious the consequences of a breach could be.

How does an organisation protect itself against cyber attack?

If people don’t understand, endorse and actively support cyber security consistently throughout an organisation, it’s just a matter of time before the best of systems will be compromised.

As change professionals, the area we add value is in helping our clients identify and embed the behaviours that will support the other measures (such as technological protection) they have in place. This isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ – if people don’t understand, endorse and actively support cyber security consistently throughout an organisation, it’s just a matter of time before the best of systems will be compromised.

Affecting large-scale behavioural change

Let’s be clear about one thing: change is hard! I get uncomfortable changing my brand of toothpaste. So effecting meaningful, lasting change can’t just be a top-down approach.  For behaviours to adapt, and for change to be truly adopted, all affected staff need to take ownership and understand the importance of the change.

Here are some key methods and approaches we use at Afiniti to help our clients ensure long-term and sustainable behavioural change is achieved across the whole organisation.

1.       Build sustainable toolkits and communications

This can’t be a one-off short-burst campaign, it needs to be rolled out over a period of time for the desired behaviours to become embedded as second nature.

To help maintain a high level of interest throughout the project, try a mix of communication styles from hard-hitting and informative to softer, more subliminal messaging.

And lastly, by using a blend of channels and methods, plus appropriate language and tone, you can ensure your key messages reach all intended audience groups.

2.       Co-create and utilise real people to generate awareness and validate the programme

Take the time to understand people’s opinions and insights into their areas of work, and then involve them in the project planning and execution. This way you’ll not only gain a more rounded understanding of the business needs, but people will feel invested in the project from the beginning.

Once people feel on board and understand the importance of the changes, work with them to create content such as short videos and workshops.  This type of user-generated content can really help with marketing to external audience groups, so why not reap the benefit for your internal communications efforts too?  It’s often cheaper, more authentic and more trusted by internal audiences.

Check out our vBlog of top tips for creating user-generated content

3.       Use creative and eye-catching visual assets

As they say ‘an image can convey a thousand words’ and this is certainly true when you’re trying to present a set of important key messages. Trying to condense a long white paper into a punchy animation or presentation can be a difficult thing to do, but it also forces you to concentrate on the things that really matter and helps to bring ideas and concepts to life.

4.       Create a security champions network

By giving tools and training to a group of security champions, you can create a community which supports the wider workforce on a day-to-day basis.  The champions can share experiences, best practice and be a point of call for questions, ideas and concerns. It also really helps to see respected colleagues modelling the desired behaviours.

Read our article on Making change stick by getting the whole team on board

It’s important to bear in mind that changing behaviours and mindsets doesn’t happen overnight, these things take time to embed. The tools and approaches above will help you maintain momentum and create the emotional engagement you need to embed the desired ways-of-working on a permanent basis.

If you have any interesting insights, or experiences of behaviour change related to cyber security, we’d be interested in hearing from you, so leave us a comment.

Four ways to create communications tools that last

Those of us who work in communications frequently support our organisation through major change. And for change managers, often the most challenging part of delivering change is what happens after the project has finished.  We need to find ways of embedding the new processes or behaviours and making them stick.

This calls for communications tools that last, are repeatable and sustainable, and have a life beyond the project.

During business change, you’re asking colleagues to change the way they work. They’ll need reliable information, clear motivation and moreover, a shared story that connects any current disruptions to how things will be in the future.

It’s a time to invest in ‘sustainable communication tools’ – these are tools that come to life the more they’re used. For example, an online portal sustained by its own user community, or a visual identity that brings impact and character wherever it’s used. A colleague of mine calls them ‘Future-proof tools’.

Done right, these brilliant concepts can pay for themselves quickly. They’ll inspire people to share content and contribute their own; they can create a stronger sense of a collective journey to a common goal.

Based on our extensive client experience, here are four things to focus on to create effective, long-term communications tools:

1. Culture fit. Devise a tool that suits how people interact now

It’s a common mistake to introduce a platform, like an enterprise social network, that’s at odds with an existing culture. Change teams may hope that people will somehow change their ways when they see it. However culture is, by nature, hard to adjust and successful programmes will work within their audience’s current preferences. There’s room to adjust engagement methods later if people start to become more adventurous.  Also, tools cannot be just left to manage themselves.  You will need to maintain them regularly by prompting people for content, asking questions and making suggestions.  While this can be time consuming to begin with – it will become easier over time, if successful.

2. Usability. Strip back and simplify

It can make sense to offer just a little information, if it means the bigger picture is easier to understand.  We’ve been working with a pharma company who found that complex new role descriptions were getting in the way of business change. People were distracted by the terminology and said they switched off when they received emails about it. The client took a fresh stakeholder management approach using an online campaign to simplify who does what. A team member said: “These people are scientists, inquisitiveness is part of workplace culture. Start with something simple and they’ll ask the right questions as and when they need to”.  So if you’ve developed a campaign that needs to run, keep things simple.  People like ‘simple’.  They are faced with complicated jargon every day so would welcome any effort made to make things easier for them to understand and act on.

3. Identity. Give the programme some character

A great identifier can increase the sense of a shared journey for everyone going through change. It could be a name, image or any visual that works with the organisation’s brand. We’d call it a communications tool because it does an important job in connecting activities together. For example, an oil and gas client won awards for its use of a three day change event to support major change. A strong programme identity ran through diverse activities, highlighting the fact that everything’s connected.

4. Involvement. People will only carry ‘their’ communications tool

Regardless of format, a communications tool will grow because people want it to. The more relevant it feels to individuals, the more they’ll invest. For example, companies often appoint ‘change champions’ but unless these individuals feel in control they’ll struggle to truly ‘champion’ change. Recognising this, a client created a guidance document for its new change champions. It provided key facts and pointers. Champions could talk about change in their own words, but with confidence supported by the right facts.

Read our blog for ideas on how to ensure people are onboard for your change journey

 

Overall, the true test of a sustainable communications tool is whether it connects people to the same purpose, and has a life after the project closes.  We like to pop back to clients to see how they are getting on with the sustainable tools left behind.  Given the right support and guidance, we are often surprised at how well they are working.

What tools do IT managers need to successfully manage change?

As well as routine project management and IT programmes, IT managers are often tasked with the people elements of change – an implementation can’t be seen as successful if there is no user adoption.

So what do they need in order to make sure this goes smoothly?  IT managers need practical tools that will be sustainable for future use. As all change is unique and needs people to truly own it, all guidelines and templates must be flexible and adaptable to help engage people and enable them to put their own stamp on a project.

Here are my top ten products and tools to support IT managers:

1.       Change readiness assessment

There are questions to ask around how ready the business is for a particular change. How likely are the current culture and patterns of working to lend themselves to adoption of the new process or technology? What barriers may appear in the organisation?  Readiness assessments allow us to baseline our change capability within an organisation, or a part of an organisation. Readiness assessments can be repeated at various points up until go-live to measure the effectiveness of the change management we have implemented.

Take our sample organisational change readiness assessment

2.       A change readiness dashboard

The change readiness dashboard will collate the various readiness assessments and report them as a whole.  Through a readiness dashboard we can assess if our change management approach is being successful

3.       Change impact analysis

This is a template that allows us to overlay what the change is, with which user groups it is going to affect.  We can build on this to determine how we best support for those groups.

4.       Stakeholder mapping templates

A means of identifying and classifying key stakeholders according to their influence and relevance to the project. This can feed into a stakeholder management plan.

5.       A process for co-creating a key message framework

As well as the key message framework, you’ll also want to co-create the core story with key stakeholders.

Read our blog on the impact of storytelling on your change programme

6.       An adaptable communications strategy

Your communications strategy will need to be adaptable and flexible enough that it can be applied to different functions/areas to ensure it reaches all corners of your stakeholder matrix.

7.       A guide for line managers to support their teams throughout a project and beyond

You will need a guide for line managers to help them support their teams, and you will also need guides for sponsors and change champions to help them fulfil their roles. This includes ideas for sharing success, communicating at different levels, setting example behaviours, gathering and monitoring feedback, and answering questions. The guides should support the change network to reach the heart of the business, to prepare people and embed a number of changes in behaviour. And, thinking back to sustainability – these guides are inherently reusable.

8.       A sponsor roadmap

The roadmap needs to provide a  framework for the change project, and set out how the sponsor can support the various project teams and stakeholders, as well as how the project manager can use the sponsor to effectively deal with resistance and challenges.

Here’s the Prosci take on the sponsorship roadmap

9.       The creation of sustainable and highly relevant communications materials

Sustainability for any team faced with implementing change, really means three things here: 1 Boosting long term skills. Once a team goes through the process once and has coaching, the process becomes repeatable. 2 Tools should always have a long life-span for example a video should be reusable. This means every item has to be produced with sustainability in mind: ‘where can we use this elsewhere?’ ‘What would need to come out to enable multiple use?’ And 3. Adaptable templates for items such as emails and newsletters can all be used again and again by an IT manager or change team, to create materials for new projects.

10.   The development of a one-stop portal

often developed in SharePoint, the portal will house everything people need to know about the new technology, with individual learning pathways that can be tailored and updated for new projects.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the ten points above. Are there any more elements you think could be added? Let us know in the comments below.

Afiniti news – Jay Dixon joins the team as Business Change Director

Previously a Managing Partner at James and Carmichael Consulting (JCC), Jay has over twelve years’ consulting experience under his belt, as well as a background in operations and supply chain management where he started his career after graduating from Leeds University .

Jay is settling in to working life at Afiniti, so it seemed a good time to sit down with him and have a chat about his career to date, his areas of specialism and what he’s enjoying working on so far at Afiniti.

How did you get into change management and consulting?

“I started working for Unilever in supply chain operations, and after moving from the factory to head office I began to get involved with change projects.

“I became a super user for a project which gave me a new perspective – it was really exciting to see how I was helping to shape a new future for the organisation.  From here on in I began to move away from the day-to-day business operations, getting more and more involved with project work.  It’s at this point that I realised I wanted to pursue a career in business change and moved to Accenture to develop that further.”

So you’ve seen how it works from both sides then – as consultant as well as client?

“Most definitely, a lot of what we do as change management consultants involves working with senior leaders to design and plan. But, at the end of the day, you need individuals to change their ways of working and behaviour for any change to be successful. My early experience at Unilever really helps me understand the realities and challenges that clients have from a shop-floor perspective.”

 

“My early experience at Unilever really helps me understand the realities and challenges that clients have from a shop-floor perspective.”

 

What are your areas of speciality?

“I have experience of change programmes associated with a range of client objectives from new operating models to big data initiatives. On a previous programme with JCC, I worked on a pan-European project for a global healthcare client who was looking to shift their sales force up the value chain away from being transactional (order takers), towards providing a business-partner based service.

“Our involvement, from a change perspective, was to shape a programme to first of all help the leaders change their mindset about what the sales force could do, and secondly, provide the space and environment to allow the sales team to act in an entirely different way via a comprehensive training plan followed up with a coaching framework.

“The degree of change on this programme was deep, and, unsurprisingly there was resistance from people who were being asked to work in ways which were entirely new.  We had great success in terms of helping the sales teams to adopt the new ways of working and transferring ownership of the change to the local countries.  This repositioned the client amongst their competitors and gave the sales teams a new set of capabilities with which to go to market.”

So, what attracted you to Afiniti?

“Afiniti works in a very agile way, which means we can offer a truly bespoke approach for each of our clients.  In addition to this is the blend of creative and consultancy, which is pretty unique as far as my experience of consulting has been.  This means that we can work with our clients from shaping what needs to be done, into executing and making it happen.  And, when we make it happen, we can present it to the audience in a really fresh and engaging way.  Of course, all of the deliverables and user-facing artefacts that we generate are created off the back of sound consulting expertise, and co-created with the client – that’s the other thing about the Afiniti approach, we always look for that co-creation on every project that we work on.”

How do you envisage your career experience hitherto complementing the Afiniti offering?

“A lot of my work over the past twelve years has been in the consumer goods divisions of large organisations; ranging from replacement car parts and logistics, paints, spare parts for installed medical devices, home and health care products to over the counter pharmacy goods – quite a wide range of FMCG products!

“Knowing what drives these businesses, the leadership structures, how the supply chains operate, and essentially, knowing what makes these organisations tick is a great asset.  So, I would say I really have a handle on the key drivers of the FMCG industries, one of them being the focus on the end consumer.

“And, thinking back to agility which we mentioned before, the ability of these organisations to be able to adapt to environmental factors and take advantage of opportunities is paramount. We are seeing more and more that companies want the stability of long-term growth and also to be nimble and agile, to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. I think it’s going to be a growing trend, certainly over the next year or two, as people start to understand what agility means, and then implement ways to achieve that. Whether it involves embedding new operating models, new asset management systems or upskilling the workforce, we’re ideally placed at Afiniti to help our clients achieve these changes.” For more information on organisational agility and adopting an agile mindest, take a look at Jay’s latest blog post, Agility – moving beyond the buzzword.

 

“Whether it involves embedding new operating models, new asset management systems or upskilling the workforce, we’re ideally placed at Afiniti to help our clients achieve these changes.”

 

What do you most enjoy about what you do?

“I feel privileged to be working with clients when they are going through times of significant business change. We really help to move the leadership teams, as well as the people within the organisations, along through that change – and we do it in a truly engaging way, which for me combines the best of consulting and creative to create high impact change that lasts.”

Do you feel a sense of responsibility?

“Initially when working with clients you have an idea of the things you want to work through with them.  Then, when you get in to the project you often realise that there are some hugely impactful things which could be done, instead of, or as well as, the things we’d originally planned to do.  So, there’s constant reflection and thinking around ‘what’s the most value we can add right now?’ This is what’s great about being an agile consultancy – at Afiniti we can pivot and change what we deliver – if we think it’s the right thing to do in mutual agreement with the client!”

What do you get up to in your spare time?

“During the weekends and evenings, I spend as much time as possible with my wife and young daughter, I like to read fiction novels to relax and enjoy expanding my food and wine knowledge.  I’m also the proud owner of a Triumph Scrambler motorbike, which I get to ride very occasionally!”

How does change management fit with project management?

There is, understandably, some confusion about how change management activities sit alongside project management.

After all, project management provides for comms and learning, so what’s the need for additional change management?
Looking at the success rate of projects, we can see there is great additional need for a structured approach to managing the people aspect of change.

Working at portfolio level – transformational change

This looks at projects from a portfolio, organisational perspective. If your organisation is faced with complex transformation, involving multiple projects, typical project management activities around comms and learning will not be enough to steer the organisation’s people towards a desired future state – efforts at the project level will simply be too fragmented. Change management allows for a portfolio top-down view of the way in which a business’s people will move from the present state to a future desired state.

Designing change with people in mind

At the beginning, project management includes a focus on initial stakeholder analysis, mapping and communications planning. However, change management goes further to plot the impact of the change/s on the organisation and teams.

This is the important part, without the buy-in and engagement of the organisation’s people, the project is likely to encounter negativity and push-back, with project managers spending precious time fighting fires and rescuing relationships.

The change management team will get to grips with the culture and beliefs of the different teams involved, understanding that potentially, each of these groups have their own unique attributes and preferences.  Feedback will be gathered directly from people on how the proposed changes could affect them, and how their day-to-day working may be impacted.

Building this initial picture and understanding of the organisation’s teams is the first step in a structured approach to the people aspect of change. Next the change management team will carry out impact analysis, change readiness assessment, and initial stakeholder research in order to outline a strategy to manage resistance and fulfil communication and engagement roles.

Factoring people in at the beginning means that barriers to adoption can be clearly identified and proactively dealt with.

Adding depth to the delivery of change to people

Articulating the reasons for the change, from a people and business perspective, comes directly from having the above people-focused approach to planning and strategy. A clearer vision comes from conveying the wider context of change and what that will mean for people. The story of why the change is happening is given a broader strategic level context.

From that it is easier to produce the blueprint for a visual identity, and a set of messages that create impact for teams and individuals. Inspiring people with a story, the context for the change and what it will mean for them are all made possible by the more structured people-focused planning and strategy which is afforded by change management.

Further, change management activities create a network of local support during the project delivery. Change champions are equipped to communicate and endorse the change. Special attention is given to line managers, sponsors and this change network to enable them to fulfil the goal of not just pushing messages out, but receiving input and monitoring how the change is being received and adopted by people.

An IT manager may deliver change focusing on communicating the benefits and training people to use new technology or process. However, change management process takes this further. Feedback and response mechanisms are formalised and structured.  It provides coaching for senior leaders and sponsors on how to identify the root causes of resistance and how to engage and manage resistance when it happens.

Read our article on managing resistance to change.

Training becomes another opportunity to engage with people and obtain their buy-in and genuine participation. Change management activities relating to training focus on how it can be made more interactive, designed for feedback, and feature the organisation’s people in the delivery – all with the core messaging throughout.

Post implementation we find that change management’s people focus means that people are rewarded and acknowledged for their adoption of the new, reinforcing the change after ‘go-live’. Feedback from people improves process and ensures the changes adapt to meet their original goals.

Good practice reminders for writing your communications strategy

Come on, be honest, how many times have you googled ‘How to write a communications strategy’?  I admit I have done so in the past, more than once.

Looking back, it’s understandable: your communications strategy represents an expedition. It maps what you want, how you plan to get it and all that might affect the journey. The strategy covers everything and yet to be useful, it must be utterly concise.

So to reduce people’s future googling, here are five things to consider when writing a strategy for communications to support people change.

1. Explore like a journalist

Any successful communications strategy will have people at its heart. You need to understand your audience: their environment and attitudes. A formal approach will include a full situation analysis. At a pinch, gather statistical and anecdotal evidence to understand your client organisation, its history, culture and the people.

Clearly, the more you know about the population you seek to change, the more accurately you can set your strategic objectives and meet them.

2. Your communications strategy should tie your goal to corporate objectives

Your strategy won’t be supported by business leadership unless it’s linked to what the organisation is trying to do. Make this connection obvious when you define the strategy’s purpose. For example, “This is a strategy to have people adopt automated HR by 2018, in order to meet our ops efficiency vision.”

And if you can do this using an engaging visual diagram, then even better.

3. Know exactly what you want people to do differently

Clarify what you want people to think, feel and do as a result of the change, and keep checking the strategic activities against that. Too often, things drift from these goals, especially when working with limited resources.

For example, an oil and gas client wanted to get better cohesion from one of their fastest growing business units. The strategy included an approach to run project meetings more effectively. They wanted people to stay focused on milestones. However the individuals involved traditionally used their face to face meetings for getting issues off their chest. It became obvious that for behavioural change, the client would need to either create additional opportunities to vent, or extend the standard meeting agenda to include it!

4. Build messaging around audience types to support your communications strategy

Develop a tight message framework around audience segments. People find it much easier to keep sight of their plans when they can picture the broad groups they’re aiming at.

For manageability, we’d recommend consolidating to five segments or fewer and creating generalised ‘personas’ to help bring these audience types to life. For example, imagine Trevor, the warehouse manager, who acts on instinct and no longer trusts automated systems (because he’s seen enough come and go). How will he respond to a request to join online training for a new warehouse management system? Again, your strategy is at its most reliable when it’s designed closely around people and their attitudes.

5. Measure and be nimble

More than just tracking progress, measurement is about being ready to respond to performance indicators. That way, you can show audiences that you’re listening as well as taking action to keep the strategy on track.

This means including qualitative feedback along with your metrics. For instance, set up a monthly panel to get ‘word on the street’ feedback as you go.

Then make sure that there is enough flexibility to answer this feedback with alternative activities. This gives room for a level of two way interaction with audiences, which keeps communications and change activities feeling fresh.

With these broad points in mind, it should be easier to draft a communications strategy that is focused enough to resonate with audiences, but avoids getting stuck in the detail. Remember, your strategy should engage your audience and resonate personally to increase the success of change adoption.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this outline – is there a sixth point we should cover though? Let us know in the comments below.

Effective change networks

During business change initiatives, Change Champions and / or change networks are well established, not controversial, and often of huge value.

Certainly, we’re rarely involved in an initiative without there being Change Champions or equivalent.  Despite that we still observe behaviours that can trip Champions up, rendering them ineffective.  And it’s not all about recruiting the right people.

First, there’s inadequate engagement or equipping.  Champions are recruited casually, receive little in the way of training or toolkits, and feel they’re being ignored.  As a result Champion commitment and activity wither before having any impact – with perhaps a few brave souls pushing on, feeling increasingly unsupported.  There’s a ‘double whammy’ here.  Not only is change endangered by ineffective Champions (not their fault), but influential individuals have experienced first-hand that their organisation cannot be relied on to support its people through change.  Others will watch and draw their own conclusions, even if the Champions say nothing.

Second, we’ve seen a belief that if Champions are in place, nothing else need be done.  At its worst, we’ve seen major disconnects between committed champions and disengaged operational management; business leaders abdicating their responsibility to drive change; and overloaded champions desperately trying to deliver ongoing day-to-day responsibilities and move the change initiative forward.  The results are predictable: burnt-out, disillusioned Champions and change hitting the buffers.  The risk here, too, is a reaction that says Champions don’t work, that it’s all about leaders leading.

The lessons seem obvious, but also seem to need restating.  If people need to be engaged and equipped for a change journey, how much more do those tasked with guiding them on the journey.  And, Champions are simply not an alternative to organisational leaders playing their role – it’s ‘both / and’.

An engaged and well-equipped community of Champions, working in tandem with organisational leadership can be wonderfully powerful.  To deploy ill-equipped and un-supported champions, working in isolation, is to hang some of the organisation’s best people out to dry.

How change management reduces resistance to change

Resistance to change must always be anticipated. Happily, change management ensures you are prepared when it happens.

Change management is all about securing people’s adoption of change. Following its structured approach will help to anticipate and mitigate resistance.

Readiness assessments

It’s important to plan early on for resistance, as it will appear in some form or another, you can bet on that. But it will differ by team and organisation. Understanding the audience and business gives you the best head start.

Scoping the big picture

In the initial phases it’s important to take a step back and see the big picture. Often, too much attention is placed on individuals or jumping straight into a training needs analysis or communications plan.

Change management resistance to change

Stakeholder analysis of key groups will focus your energy on the right people.

An impact assessment can show the following:

  • What teams will be affected
  • When the change will affect different teams
  • How much of a behaviour change is required from the current way of working

An impact assessment and change readiness assessment should focus on identifying groups and rating these. The key tip is: Don’t try and do everything at once and stick to the broad view!

From this you can go on to outline anticipated points of resistance and tactics to manage them. You’ll be aware of what form that resistance will likely take and where it will come from.

The resistance plan

This is one of your plans that sits alongside the communications, training and sponsor roadmaps and can include the following:

  • Measurements for a real problem – What are your indicators of serious resistance?
  • Lines to take – Your communications plan and toolkit relates closely to your resistance plan
  • The team – How the change management team understands its role.

During change – processes and tools

People resist change because they cannot see a clear benefit and are unsure of how to work in the new way. Change management deploys communication and training for this very reason.

Delivering high impact branded communications will help to inform and educate people on why the change is happening and where the benefits might lie for their team. A flexible learning portal can be tailored for different teams, giving any-time access to knowledge.

Engagement

Change management emphasises two way engagement and employee feedback, with managers and leaders understanding their role in interpreting the feedback and producing communications outputs. The change management team needs to identify, understand and help other managers and change champions manage resistance throughout the organisation.

Post project – benefits realisation

Ongoing resistance management

Benefits realisation, with a people focus, looks at how the adoption has really worked.  Are people using the tools and processes as expected – or are they figuring out work arounds, or worse, finding alternatives?  Change management process keeps you focused on people adoption as part of its benefits realisation phase where continued monitoring is used.

Change management activities sit alongside every step of a project. This dedicated people focus at every stage allows you to plan for, and manage, resistance to change.