In this blog I will share our top tips for improving your organisational change agility and ability.

In our recent Big Change survey, “Communication” was rated by our 240 respondents as the second most important characteristic successful change projects, while a lack of communication was rated as the third highest contributing factor underlying unsuccessful change projects.

It came as no surprise that communication, or a lack of it, is pivotal when it comes to making or breaking a change project. And while communication may seem like an obvious skill that most project managers should have, many are really lacking when it comes to effectively communicated during the planning stages of a project, while others are not using ongoing communication effectively to keep big change programmes on track.

When it comes to communication within Change projects, there are two aspects to consider:

  • Ensure you communicate effectively, this means considering the ‘how, what and when’ elements of your message and implementing the EAST framework
  • Don’t manipulate the facts to portray a positive image of the project (i.e. when reporting or publicising information, it should reflect the reality of the projects progress or status)

In order to ensure that these two areas are covered, consider:

  • Budget for more time with existing staff to focus on the change project or hire a Communications specialist as a good starting point
  • If you can’t justify a full-time Communication specialist, then engage your PR, Marketing and Advertising teams for input and ideas. Having that specialist view point guarantees that the reputation of the project is effectively managed and that information is cascaded effectively across the team or organisation.
  • Adopt a ‘Stakeholder Persuasion’ view as opposed to a ‘Stakeholder Management’ view to communicating
  • This is far more reflective of reality and drives the right behaviours. You should seek to help stakeholders adopt a favourable view point of the change, rather than managing them to just have an understanding of what information it is that they would be keen to have about the project, or who has the best influence within the project. Effective and lasting change comes from achieving buy-in through coercion rather than control, ensure your communications set this tone.

Identify and engage an Executive Sponsor to communicate the value of the change

An executive who has the drive, energy and belief to instil enthusiasm throughout the organisation can also play a key role in portraying the importance and relevance of the change project to the wider team. The message has to be ‘this is a marathon, not a sprint’ and by supporting one another and being open about the plans and progress of the change, we can effectively achieve it together.

The EAST Framework

The EAST framework is a useful guide for drafting your communications – outlined by the CEO of the Behavioural Insight Team – this framework can be applied to much more than communications but it is easiest to apply here and proven to improve adoption of big change. Ensure your communications are:

  • Easy - Ensure that the communication is direct, straight to the point and clear on the message.
  • Attractive - Communicate in a format that suits your stakeholders or team, written and presented in a format that is engaging.
  • Social – Engage all individuals involved in the Change program. People often make the mistake of defining only a certain group of influential stakeholders. Stakeholder persuasion in a change context should relate to all stakeholders who the change affects their day-to-day job in one day or the other. Encourage a culture of involvement, regardless of how much the change affects the stakeholder in question.
  • Timely - Communications should be timed to suit not just the project plan, but in enough time for people to absorb the message being communicated. A common error is for communications to come out as a change is occurring, after the change has occurred or even without really having any real value to the stakeholders.

Communication is essential to any change programme and that doesn’t always dominate the spotlight because “we all do it”. Communication needs to be both digital and personal – if you address this in communications and reality, people will be far more supportive and engaged (think of the Principle of Reciprocity).

If you’d like to share your views on the role of communication in Big Change, please get in touch, we will be delighted to help.