The communication plan is one of the key tools available to change management professionals. In Prosci's 2009 best practices bench marking study, effective communication was cited as the number two contributor to success, just behind "active and visible sponsorship." We can all agree that in times of change, communications are central to success. Unfortunately, there are many instances where communication plans and efforts are taking place without a change management framework or perspective. Communications frequently show up in project management methodologies and processes. In fact, many organizations have complete departments or functions dedicated to communications. However, "communications with change management" and "communications without change management" are very different. This tutorial looks at five main areas that vary when a communications effort occurs with or without change management:
Can you have a communication plan that is not part of a bigger change management approach? The answer is certainly yes. Will this type of plan produce positive results toward managing the people side of change? Often times the answer is NO. Without being grounded in change management, efforts usually result in a telling plan rather than a communication plan. To be effective, communications must be targeted to the particular audience, sharing why the change is happening, addressing their specific concerns and where they are in the change process. The timing, content and "sender" of messages in times of change is crucial and plays a key role in building a communication plan focused on change management.
Communications in the context of change management has several implications that are unique from communications in general:
The communication plan needs to be created against the back drop of individual change. An individual change management model, like Prosci's ADKAR® Model, describes how one individual makes a change successfully. ADKAR® says that for an individual to make a change successfully, he or she needs Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement. ADKAR® provides the answer to the question: What are we trying to achieve by communicating? Communication plans that have a context of individual change are results-oriented and grounded in the ultimate unit of change - one person making a change to his or her work.
Below, five aspects of communication are addressed with comments on what can occur without a foundation in change management.
|Without Change Management||Communications designed to tell you what "we" are doing|
|With Change Management||Communications designed to build awareness and engage employees in the process|
|Without Change Management||Project details, design details, status and progress updates, milestones|
With Change Management
|Answers to the questions that employees have - (1) why is this change happening, (2) what's in it for me (WIIFM), (3) risk of not changing, (4) organizational benefits|
|Without Change Management||Dictated by Project Milestones|
|With Change Management||High frequency with repetition of key messages|
Without Change Management
|One-to-Many, broadcast messages (typically one-way)|
|With Change Management||Face-to-Face interactions, discussions, variety of media (always two-way)|
|Without Change Management||Project team members, communication specialists|
|With Change Management||Someone at the top (the sponsor of the change) and the person the employee reports to (my direct supervisor)|
We often hear project teams say "we already have a communications plan". What we find instead is that they have developed a plan to tell others in the organization about their work, their progress and their plans. When you look deeper into who is sending the message, the message content, the delivery method and the goal of the communications, you find very quickly that communications without a foundation in change management actually create negative consequences for the organization undergoing change, and in some cases can undermine change efforts. Here is a checklist to ensure that your communications are rooted in effective change management techniques.
Tim Creasey is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and a globally recognized leader in change management. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on managing the people side of change to deliver organizational results.