By Melanie Franklin
I am currently leading a global change programme which means I have a lot of stakeholders in different time zones to communicate with. Change is not a sequential process, some aspects of new ways of working are adopted quickly, others take longer to understand and be accepted and my communications must engage my stakeholders at all stages of the programme.
The fuel that keeps the change engine running is a belief about the purpose of the changes and excitement about what is being achieved. This means that as the Change Leader what I communicate about the change programme has to achieve this motivation and excitement. Therefore, these are my critical success factors for communicating change:
Keep reminding everyone that the change is valuable, beneficial and aligns closely to the values and strategic objectives of the whole organisation. In practice this means linking the progress achieved in the current reporting period to the wider goals of the organisation.
Your audience is so busy making change happen that it is not always easy for them to stand back and see how their efforts are helping to achieve the wider agenda. In my experience this means linking announcements from senior managers about how they see the organisation and the marketplace back to what you are doing.
For example, last week the CEO of the organisation I am working talked in the press about the value of establishing long term relationships with customers. In my reporting this week I am giving examples to my stakeholders about how the changes they are implementing help to achieve long term relationships with customers.
2. Difference we have made
Motivation is generated by a feeling of satisfaction about progress made coupled with anticipation about future possibilities (see next step). When we have our heads down battling to get things done or are feeling the pressure of grappling with new ways of working whilst still meeting performance targets it is hard to step back and celebrate. As a leader I feel passionately that it is my job to help others see how fantastic they are. It’s great that people work at a fast pace, constantly learning new things and resolving challenges.
I sometimes feel like a crossing guard outside of a school, walking into the road to halt the flow of traffic, but these temporary stoppages are essential if they are done well. To me, that means going further than just acknowledging aspects of the new ways of working. Instead I need to draw together this progress into a compelling description of what the organisation is now capable of.
For example, pass on compliments from customers, repeat positive comments from senior managers and stakeholders, provide evidence of financial and productivity benefits.
3. Excitement about new ideas
To create excitement I like to showcase what is coming up next. I give examples of how current ideas and scope are being extended and enhanced by yet more ideas. For example, one of the Project Managers in my change programme talked me through her achievements and how these had been received by the business and the impact they were having. From this we came up with several ideas about how she could extend the work, offer more help to the business and build upon the improvements that stakeholders have noticed from the initial work.
If you are reading this and thinking that communication during change is relentlessly updated then I would agree with you. I think it’s my job to build a virtuous circle of improvements, where a little bit of good news is only the beginning.