I’m amazed at how often I get asked – and frankly argued with – about the amount of work that it takes to perform change management activities.
After all, it’s not that hard to “send out a few emails,” right? Wrong. Sending out a few emails isn’t rocket science. But it’s also not as simple as sitting down at our computer, cranking out a few lines, and then sending to 10,000 employees (or even more). Ever tried that? If you did, you probably didn’t do it twice.
Four steps to effective change management communications:
1. Draft, Edit, Review, Repeat
To send out a single email, we must first figure out the purpose of the email. Often, that requires coordination with multiple project entities, including the primary sponsors, key members of the project team, and subject matter experts. Then we have to draft, edit, and fix the email until we get it right. The next step is to send the draft for review to the project leads. Invariably we’ll get feedback, often conflicting, that has to be resolved. Once that’s done, we’ll likely have to send for a second round of reviews, often including more senior-level parties, for their review and edits. Only then, once we’ve made those changes, are we ready for distribution. This process takes time and effort.
2. Cover All the Channels – Again and Again
What about presentations, posters, intranet articles? The process only gets more complicated. Oh, and by the way, you’ve heard the adage that for anything to land and stick, it has to be said seven times over at least three different channels? The saying is truer today than ever, though those channels are changing, and attention spans are shorter. Some would argue that it’s now eight or nine times, over four or more channels.
3. Give Employees the Information They Need, When They Need It
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During a recent project, my team and I upgraded a client’s users from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange. Each user received no less than nine emails. Overkill? Not really. The project lasted about four months from start to finish, with users migrating in weekly waves over the final two months. We sent out three “awareness” communications (“This is coming, and here’s why it’s great!”) to the entire population to generate interest and buy-in in the initial couple of months.
Then we sent out a series of what we call “T-minus” communications (e.g., T-14, T-7, T-1, T, T+1 and T+7), where “T” is the day of go-live. These communications were distributed using a distribution list related to the migration schedule for each wave, so that each user gets customized information before (and after) their specific go-live. Sounds like a lot, but we’ve found this pattern to be extremely effective and welcomed by our target audiences. We give them exactly what they need, when they need it, allowing them to focus on their day jobs and not worrying more than they need to about our project work.
4. Be Prepared for Stakeholder Changes and Proper Training
Meaningful communication is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Stakeholders may change (with new ones identified or even ones who leave), their dispositions can (and likely will) change, and their issues and concerns will change. This is where a stakeholder analysis becomes critical, and it must be iterated over the course of the project. Operating blind is risky and can hinder any chance at sustainable adoption. Then there’s the training, which has to have the scope defined, the target audiences determined, the logistics (e.g., timing, location, frequency) set, and the invitations sent and responses tracked. The training format (e.g., instructor led, train-the-trainer, web-based content, quick reference guides) needs to be identified and agreed upon. And then the training artifacts have to be created. Only then can we go through the work of actually delivering the training.
Change management isn’t easy. It takes a lot of effort. Is it worth the investment? You bet it is.
Download our guide, How to Overcome 5 Change Management Mistakes, for more insights.