As previously mentioned, it is critical in any major project to ensure all the people impacted by the proposed change understand:
- WHO - is involved and who is impacted
- WHAT - is happening and what it will mean for them
- WHEN - it is happening and when they will need to be involved
- WHY - it is happening and why it "makes sense"
- HOW - it impacts them and how they can get involved
With advanced Social Media tools, this has become a lot easier and I produced a presentation about this around 4 years ago called Social Media Strategies for Change Management which highlighted the issues and some approaches to ensure the process went smoothly.
The biggest issue I see time after time, is that communication doesn't start early enough and tends to be "Top-down, command and control" in nature - in other words, a message from The Management saying something along the lines of, "We're doing this and we will let you know what you need to know, when you need to know it! In the meantime, carry on!" This type of message inevitably leads to speculation, rumour and resistance, which is almost impossible to fully overcome.
In reality, a major project that has a big budget and significant impacts on how people do their job (good or bad) needs a more inclusive and consultative approach and the sooner this process starts, the better it will be for everyone and here's why:
- By being inclusive and actively seeking input, you'll get the vast majority of people, including some hard-core cynics on side. You will gain loyalty from your workforce for simply asking them, "If you could do one thing to improve (the company's efficiency / your efficiency / your job satisfaction / customer satisfaction / save money / increase profit) what would it be?"
- Get people used to the idea - start gently with simple questions about what's wrong at the moment and/or how things can be done better, it will gain momentum surprising quickly, with more and more people offering opinions and supporting the process.
- The more you can find out about what's currently wrong and what can be done better, the more informed your business plan will be, giving you a better picture of the likely benefits, Return on Investment timescales and some additional ideas for improving your business processes.
- You may find that what you thought were significant issues aren't and that what you thought were root causes are actually just symptoms and you've been looking in the wrong place(s) for solutions - you may not need that new system, you may need something different!
- You'll probably identify some rising stars and significant assets in people you had never thought of (and may identify some dead wood too!) You'll certainly get a clear idea of who to include in the workshop activities and, maybe, some of the people you will want to avoid.
- With a bit of analysis you will be able to prioritise these issues in terms of severity and impact and will be able to start planning the key areas that need most focus within the upcoming project.
- Harnessing this enthusiasm before the formal process starts means that when it comes to the real work of Requirements Gathering it will be a great deal easier, well supported and far more comprehensive.
- Your staff can't justify resisting change or complain about it if they, themselves, told you what was wrong and possibly how to fix it too.
- All of this great insight can be achieved without any disruption to business-as-usual and at zero cost - no need for meetings or workshops! You just put the question(s) out there, scoop up the feedback, say "Thank you!" to those who participated and compile the results. (You may want to publish the results to demonstrate that you take staff feedback seriously!)
Honesty and transparency really is best in scenarios like this because your staff and customers are expressing opinions anyway, it's just a question of whether you are even aware of it!
Communications is a two-way thing, not a monologue telling people what you think they need to know - give them a voice and you may hear some uncomfortable truths, but they are being spoken out of your earshot, if you're choosing not to engage.
The next article will be Understanding Business Process