We can all agree that effective communication is critical to change management efforts. In fact, change practitioners have named it a top contributor to project success in Prosci's Best Practices in Change Management research for more than 20 years. Unfortunately, during times of change organizations often develop and execute communications plans without regard for a change management framework or perspective. Communications serve an important purpose in project management and other processes, but change management communications differ from these communications in significant ways.
A communications plan that is not part of a bigger change management approach usually won't produce positive results toward managing the people side of change. Instead, such plans result in a telling plan rather than a communications plan. Effective change management communications must target a particular audience, share why the change is happening, address their specific concerns, and meet the audience where they are in the change process. The timing, content and sender of the messages are also important during change.
The change management communications plan is uniquely effective because:
The change management communications plan has very specific intent, focus, frequency, methods and senders. When organizations develop the communications plan without change management, difficulties arise in each of these areas and can sabotage project success.
|With change management||Communications designed to build awareness and engage employees in the process|
|Without change management||Communications that come from "us" and tell "them" what we're doing|
|With change management||Answers key questions:
"Why is the change happening?"
"What's in it for me (WIIFM)?"
"What's the risk of not changing?"
"What are the organizational benefits?"
|Without change management||Project details, design details, status and progress updates, and milestones|
|With change management||High frequency with repetition of key messages|
|Without change management||Dictated by project milestones|
|With change management||Face-to-face interactions, discussions, and a variety of media (always two-way communications)|
|Without change management||Broadcast messages (typically one-way communications)|
|With change management||Sponsors and people managers|
|Without change management||Project team members and communications specialists|
If you are communicating without change management, this checklist can help. Although it's no substitute for a holistic change management approach, it can be useful for aligning your communications with effective change management techniques.
When project teams say they already have a communications plan for project changes, we often find that they have developed a plan to tell others in the organization about their work, their progress and their plans. But "telling plans" like this usually don't lead to successful outcomes during change. Instead, aligning your communications with a reliable change management framework helps you avoid negative consequences and set up your organization for change success.
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.
Join the ranks of the more than 45,000 Prosci Certified Change Practitioners around the world. Find an upcoming training program near you.
Need support on a must-win change initiative? Want to build a change-capable organization? Prosci can partner with you to customize a solution for the specific needs of your organization.
Create a free account and access a wealth of online resources and research-based tools to help you succeed at each level of your change management journey.