The challenge of managing change and complexity
Because organisations are complex structures and the people within them are often anxious and busy, the ‘Engagement’ step is one of the easiest steps to mess up. Just working out who to talk to can be a serious challenge.
Here are some key things you need to tackle during this step:
- Who to talk to - You need to identify all those who have involvement in your new measures, whether in production, review or reward.
- How deeply to engage with them - Not all stakeholders need the same level of engagement. You need a method to manage this.
- What the ‘message’ is - KPIs can scare people. Sometimes this is a rational response, sometimes not. Simply ignoring the issues is a recipe for disaster so you need a clear understanding of what message you are trying to convey to stakeholders.
- How you communicate - A communications plan is needed for all but the simplest implementations. This should cover method, timing, audience, message and outcomes.
- Stakeholder receptiveness - Introducing new concepts, such as a radically different dashboard design, can upset stakeholders, even if they are excellent and innovative. Substantial changes should be backed up by good-quality discussion and training. The sessions should cover both the reasoning and science behind the changes.
Why develop a communications plan?
Using a communications plan does two things. Firstly, it makes sure you carefully consider what you say, to whom and when - pretty obvious. The second, slightly less obvious, point is that it provides tangible evidence it has been done properly. There will always be complaints about poor communication but the
best way to show that your communications plan was properly implemented is to:
- Discuss and share the plan in advance.
- Document progress against the communications plan during the implementation.
- Evidence the delivery through a completed plan, after the event.
Communications message, purpose and audience
- Why are you communicating?
- What is it that you are trying to change through your communications?
- If you succeed with your communications, do you know what would be different?
- Do you understand what your communications audience currently thinks? If not, you may need to survey the audience so you can measure any change resulting from the communication.
- If you do know the current audience’s view, make sure it is documented properly and can be referred back to after the communications plan delivery.
- Is that difference quantifiable?
- Who do you need to communicate with? Use the RACI matrix approach, explained in the next section, to segment your audience.
- Write your key messages for each audience segment - keeping the purpose in mind.
Designing communications activities
- Delivery method - Will it be face-to-face, by email, intranet or teleconference?
- Timing - When will you communicate? How many updates or reminders will they receive?
- Owner - Who will deliver the communications? Will they be trained? Are they suitable and motivated?
- Audience - Are you completely clear about who is included in the communications and what type of communications they will receive?
- Target outcomes from communications - What do you want the audience to know, think or do as a result of the communications?
Deliver your communications
- Who will deliver the message?
- What preparation do they need?
- Have you drafted ‘frequently asked questions and responses’ and other backup resources for your deliverers?
- How many people will you need to ensure you cover all the target audience?
- What other resources do you need? E.g. company intranet pages, dedicated SharePoint sites etc.
- How can your audience feed back comments and questions?
- What checks do you have in place to make sure the plan is delivered as intended?
- How can you tell if the communication has been effective?
- How will you know if further communication, over and above the plan, is needed?
Get the message and delivery right
The depth and method of delivery will be determined by:
- The time available.
- The number of people to be engaged.
- The geographical distribution of those people.
- The communications resource available - especially people to present road shows etc.
- The level of controversy/complexity in the message.
- The ability/existing knowledge of the audience.
Key communications principles
- Use targeting to make sure you don’t encourage people to ignore your communications.
- Put yourself ‘in the shoes’ of your audience. Look at things from their perspective and try to provide them with what they need to know.
- Senior endorsement can help make sure people take the message seriously, even better if the keynote communications are delivered by a senior executive.
Be as honest as you can be.
- If you expect a bumpy ride, try and have one-to-ones with key players in advance of any group sessions to prevent the sessions becoming ‘gladiatorial’.
- Accept that you will not always have the right information to hand. If you don’t, commit to getting an answer and do so in the promised time scale.
- Be very, very familiar with the message.