February 14, 2011

Communicate Change to Everyone Impacted

I think we have all heard that you can not over communicate during times of change. Even if change is communicated internally within a department, it is also critical to make a list of everyone else impacted by the change and develop a communication plan to include them as well.
“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” ~Arnold Bennett, British novelist
Here is a story to illustrate. Eric is a process engineer in the quality department and as part of his job he interfaces with a programmer in the technology group. Eric takes requests from the operations department and works with his assigned programmer to create changes to the system. One day, Eric’s programmer called to say “would you like to meet my replacement in India who is here to train in our systems?” Eric is shocked and surprised. No one told him that he would be interacting with another programmer, never mind someone offsite in India 11 hours ahead of his time.
So what went wrong? The information technology department employees all knew about the change and had created a plan to implement the change. They were happy with the change. The problem is they did not consider the impact on people outside of their group. Here are a few change communication tips to apply to your next change initiative:
1) Advance Communication: Providing advance communication of the change allows everyone to adapt to the news and begin thinking of the impact of the change to them and their jobs, both positively and negatively. No advance notice as illustrated in this story, led to first confusion and then frustration. Eric did not have time to think about the change so he could articulate his questions and concerns.
2) Reason for Change: Clearly articulate the “why” of the change. People usually only welcome change if they are dissatisfied with the status quo, if they are satisfied they may resist change unless given a reason. Make sure that the reasons are provided to everyone who may be impacted by the change. No particular reason was given for outsourcing the programming for this system to India.
3) Discuss Barriers: Once you have communicated the change and the reason for it, it is time to get people involved by asking about what barriers exist that could impede the successful implementation of the change. After brainstorming barriers, move quickly into problem solving involving others in the process. You may have already thought through barriers and have developed solutions but quite often others will see unanticipated barriers and can be included in creating workable solutions.
Organizations are under a constant bombardment of change. To make your employees more change resilient it is critical to communicate, communicate and communicate some more.

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