“Turn and face the strange”… Communicating change

change communciations, internal communications / Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

I recently attended a change communications masterclass with Rachel Miller from All Things IC.

The masterclass was a great experience – loads of useful discussion in a small group, all coming from different industries, and with different internal communications experiences – focusing on communicating change within our organisations.

Bright ideas and things to remember... All Things IC postcard
Some of my notes from the masterclass.

We covered a huge amount of material during the day, so I was (for once) grateful for a quiet couple of hours during my train journey home to go through my notes and absorb what we discussed. Rachel really brought the change communication principles and theories to life with real-world examples, which has made it much easier for me to see how I can apply them to my own practice.

I have no doubt I’ll be returning to my notes time and again over the coming weeks and months, and that they’ll inspire my thoughts and practice each time, but there are three things in particular that I think are going to change how I work:

  • Certainty of communication, even if you can’t have certainty of content
    We need to make sure we say what we will do, and then do it. This is something I’m going to do a lot more of in my day-to-day internal communications – signpost where the authoritative source of information is, and then be clear about what colleagues can expect. For example, I might say that the intranet is our authoritative source of information about a change programme, and that it will be reviewed and updated on a weekly basis to ensure it remains current and helpful. I’ll also pledge to provide updates in each edition of our departmental newsletter. This helps to build trust in your communications, and means your people will know where to look for information.
  • Look backwards to move forwards
    I really like this idea. When I communicate change I definitely fall into the trap of always looking forward, without acknowledging where we’ve come from. I think showing people this change as part of a bigger picture of evolution, change, and development can be really helpful. Acknowledging the work and contributions that have gone before can help colleagues to accept the new change.
  • Global – local – me
    We need to speak to our people across three levels – the global, big picture, organisational level; local within division or department; and me, my team, where I work. We need to involve line managers to help our people translate these messages and see how the ‘global’ and ‘local’ pictures can be translated to ‘me’. How does the change impact on me, my role, my team? Line Managers have a vital role in helping colleagues to make sense of change, to see it on their ‘me’ level, and to enable two-way engagement so we can check their understanding.

A final thought that resonated with me was about painting a picture of the change. What will it look like? More importantly, what will it feel like for your colleagues?

We set the tone for how we communicate change during ‘peacetime’. By investing in our internal communications and engaging employees when our organisations are stable, we build a reputation for frequent and trust-worthy communications. This means when change and organisational flux come, our people know and trust our communications and trust us to help them navigate the change – and to come out the other side more engaged and invested in the organisation. Or in the words of Metallica: “To secure peace is to prepare for war”.

What challenges do you find in communicating change? How do we bring our people with our organisation when it comes to changing how we work? Importantly, how can we measure success?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or drop me a line!

Check out All Things IC for details of Rachel’s internal communications masterclasses and other training courses.

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