106 Communications

6th Sense

How to get change communications right

December 2020 | Change communications

Change programmes are high profile, costly and time consuming so need to bet set up to succeed. These ten tips will ensure your change communications get off to a flying start and remain steady during turbulent times.

Agree sponsor engagement up front

Your sponsor is a crucial advocate for the change and will be interfacing with senior stakeholders. Coaching them to tell the change story in a convincing way, and respond to stakeholder concerns, is critical. They also need to know exactly what you want them to do and when. Make sure you get this straight up front because you may find it difficult to get contact time with your sponsor once the change programme is fully underway.

A good narrative is like gold dust

Deep technical subject matter experts work on complex change programmes. It’s your job to contextualise the change and link it to the bigger picture, your company strategy, through a compelling change narrative. Think about neurodiversity too – different brains perceive things differently. A simple visual will be much more effective in telling a change story than a list of statistics.

Coach mangers and the programme team to tell the change story

A good change story creates deep engagement and motivation at an individual level, as managers guide and motivate their teams. Keeping the change vision in mind will enable the team to stay focused through ambiguity. Be prepared to adjust your narrative as it evolves.

Don’t try and eat the elephant all at once.

Knowing which change communications are going to move the needle is one of your greatest challenges. You will have to convince your stakeholder of your choice. So choose your top three priorities for the first month, get your sponsor to sign them off and stick to them. Getting your change narrative right, identifying your audiences and articulating what the change means to them should be your starting point. Again, be ready to pivot these changes as necessary.

Become best friends with the change programme project manager

The Project Manager’s job is to keep the change programme moving and if they are any good at it, will have an understanding of all the moving parts. Staying close to them will enable to you to respond with agility with changes on the horizon. They will be accountable for reporting progress against deliverables too, so ensure change communicated is well represented.

Be your own best advocate

The project team needs to understand the value that agile change communications brings, so it’s your job to coach people on what you do, how and why you do it.

Your sanity depends on being part of a strong, aligned team

According to the Harvard Business Review, 70% of change programmes fail. You will need to build an effective support network – either in your immediate team or in a community of practise to see you through the tough times. Potentially you may be the only change or communications manager on the project so it’s important you have a safe space to test new ideas or just let off steam. Ensuring you are working to the same priorities is important, as it’s tempting to become siloed as you support specific areas of a complex change. Meeting daily for 30 minutes will help you respond with agility.

Agree the content sign-off process up front to avoid bottlenecks further down the line

All sponsors and managers will have different processes for signing off content so clarify yours early on. Be clear on which individuals are being consulted on iterations of content, or whether they actually have final say.

Meeting discipline is key

Running an efficient meeting will speed up decision making and save time and energy. Elon Musk’s three rules for meetings could be a place to start. Prepare an IPO (inputs, processes, outputs) or agenda before every change planning meeting, clarify who the right people are to be on the call and be ruthless with your time management.

Factor in continuous improvement at every stage

Ask yourselves what worked and what you could have done differently and review throughout the project.

106 Communications is an award-winning communications consultancy on a mission to making work better. We create communications to engage and inspire through our three expert-led practises in Internal Communications, Change Communications and Branding & Marketing. To make sure your change communications get permission to land contact Henry Davies on Henry@106comms.com.

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