Change management is a hot topic. It is also a concept often widely misunderstood, with many organisations confusing change management with communicating change.
So, what is the difference?
Change management involves the entire organisation and is much bigger than just communications (although communicating change is an essential ingredient in change management, more on that later).
Change management has a lot of moving parts, and in essence is a series of processes and actions (including great communications) that drive change in an organisation. Having a communications plan for the change is important – but it is not the same as a change management plan.
The change can be simple – a change in policy or process – or it can be complex, involving entire organisational change.
For many people, change is uncomfortable. It implies disruption to an established way of working. In staff, it can lead to resistance and low morale. The lack of excitement of willingness to embrace change can also impact the external reputation of an organisation.
So, what does successful change management look like?
A key ingredient of change management is great communications. It is also about great leadership. People leading change must clearly articulate the rationale for the change – but they also must be great listeners.
It is important that people leading the change know how staff or clients are feeling throughout the change and where they are in their change journey. Having this understanding essential – as this will determine the information and style of communication each person needs.
What does the change journey look like?
The ADKAR change management model (above) is one of the best change models to determine where people are in their change journey.
At each stage of the journey, people will have different needs. For example someone who is in the awareness stage, you need to tell them about the change, why it is happening, why it is happening now and the risk of not changing - but most importantly to move them to desire to support the change, you need to answer the question “what is in it for me?”
The ‘why’ should then be reinforced throughout the project lifecycle, because it is likely the change will take time. The ‘why’ needs to be continuously repeated - at the start of implementation and throughout.
What does great change communications look like?
Equip senior leaders with key messaging and coaching
It is essential that senior leaders are equipped to effectively communicate messages relating to the change.
Key messages should be drafted with a clear delivery sequence and coaching provided to leaders to ensure they are comfortable with the messaging.
Repeat your key messages
As mentioned above, change often takes time, so make sure you repeat your key messages throughout.
When people first hear about a change, they won’t ‘hear’ all the details at first – as human nature means they will be focused on how the change will impact them and the rest won’t sink in. You will find you need to share key messages more often than you think!
Find effective ways to reach your audience, being mindful of where they are in the change cycle
You will need to use numerous channels to reach those people impacted by the change. And depending on where they are in the change cycle the information delivered, and the way it is delivered will also need to change.
Potential channels include in person or virtual meetings, one on one conversations, newsletters, presentations, intranet announcements or specific project pages online.
Face-to-face is always important for change communications, so try and meet with a person or groups of people either in person or online via MS Teams or Zoom (or equivalent) if you can.
Two-way communications is essential
It goes without saying, as two-way communications is important in so many projects, but in change communications this is essential.
Having senior leaders communicate directly with people in small groups – providing the opportunity for participants to share any concerns or feedback, as well as ask questions - will ultimately lead to more support for and commitment to the change.