Avoid the pitfalls of miscommunication

Last week I wrote about the 4 ways to maintain the momentum of cultural change within an organisation, and I’ve been asked by one of my blogs readers to expand on how to provide effective communication through an organisational change. Many managers do all the basic communication work, but fail to engage the stakeholders of change. It’s not enough to inform: communication of change must be two-way for engagement to take hold.

How change managers fail to communicate

Communication of change is commonly seen as a secondary requirement. This isn’t because change managers fail to recognise its importance, but that they fail to recognise the difficulty in getting it right. The result is that communication of change is undertaken by usual methods: email, noticeboard, notes at team meetings, change booklets and leaflets, etc.

When change communication is one way like this, people become disengaged and organisational change meets resistance.

How to get change communication right first time

The primary reason for change communication is to provide clarity of the organisational change. Change managers have a duty of care in this respect. They must ensure that people know what the aims of change are, how it will evolve, its impacts, and likely outcomes.

The first step to achieving this long list of aims of change communication is to plan its delivery. All the questions need to be asked and answered in this planning:

  • Who will deliver the communication, and to whom will it be delivered?
  • How will it be delivered?
  • When will communication of organisational change progress be communicated?
  • Where will messages be delivered?
  • In what format will the communication be best delivered, and what is the aim of each communication?

The first inclination is to send information out by email. While this is efficient, it is hardly engaging.

Four methods of effectively communicating organisational change

To communicate change effectively, change managers must get out and ‘meet the people’. Here are four methods of the effectiveness of communication of change:

1 Ensure change sponsors are committed and involved in the communication process

Get project sponsors and senior executives involved in the planning of change and the planning of communications. When senior executives are involved in change management planning, they are more inclined to be involved in change communication.

2 Communicate a personalised message

Use language that is understood by the receiver of the message. Issues are experienced differently by different people, and self-interests will also be different. Tailor communication style according to culture, need, age, and experience.

3 Use one-on-one coaching sessions effectively

Face-to-face coaching should be used whenever possible. It gives change managers the opportunity to gauge motivation and engagement, and the employee the opportunity to ask questions. Team meetings, where open discussion is encouraged and notes not simply presented, are also very effective in this regard.

4 Always seek feedback

Always ask for feedback. Encourage discussion of ideas, issues, and problems encountered through organisational change. Use surveys, frequently asked questions, role plays, ‘brown bag lunches’, roadshows, and training events as opportunities for feedback.

The four elements of successful communication of change

A communication of change program requires four elements to be effective:

First, when organisational change is being contemplated it may be beneficial to consider branding the change. Naming the change initiative makes communication easier and helps to focus enthusiasm.

As well as having a strategy for the change, change managers should produce a strategy for the communication of change. Executives and senior managers need to be involved from the start to give the whole change process credibility and authority. Strategy will include producing a set of objectives for the communication plan, how to mitigate risk, how the communication is phrased, and the key messages of organisational change.

In line with strategy, a plan for the communication of change should be designed to reinforce commitment across the organisation and at all levels. The plan will tackle resistance to change, detail methods of message delivery, and produce details that answer the who’s what’s when’s and how’s of change communication.

Finally, effectiveness of communications will need to be measured. This may be by way of surveys of stakeholders, feedback sessions, testing, and benchmarking.

Strategise and plan communication of change to encourage commitment

Communication of change doesn’t simply happen. It needs to be planned within a strategy framework, supported by senior executives, and allow problems to be discussed and worked through. Coaching and training is used as methods of communication, with one-on-one sessions and team meetings further enhancing the on-boarding process. Use communication of change to create stakeholder ownership, and organisational change becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Tips on Running Effective Team Meetings in the Change Management Arena

Tips on Running Change Management Team Meetings

Team meetings are great forums for the discussion of problems at work. This may be problems with processes, procedures, or interaction between different teams or divisions. Within the change management process, team meetings are an essential method of communication. They are ideal to disseminate the message of change, and identify and deal with resistance. Too often, though, such discussions focus on finding solutions to symptoms rather than establishing cause. This leads to misjudged and ultimately expensive answers which fail to resolve issues of failing change. Employing methods to find root cause rather than find solutions to symptoms will save money, time, and increase productivity.

Structure team meetings to discuss rather than solve

In order to shift emphasis from finding solutions to symptoms to resolving root causes, it’s necessary to move focus from a need to solve to a desire to identify. This requires open and honest discussion between all team members, breaking down natural hierarchies and empowering people to share experiences and observations. This is a strategy at the heart of effective change management, aiding empowerment of individuals and encouraging ownership of change by change stakeholders.

The four step approach to productive problem solving meetings

In my experience, a four step approach to structuring change management team meetings, particularly where teams are charged with problem solving, enables full participation en route to discovery of cause. Underlying this method is acceptance of spending more time on discovery than solution. As Einstein once remarked, if he had been given an hour to save the world he would spend 59 minutes on defining the problem and one minute on finding the solution.

Step 1: Remove hierarchical structure

The people who are most likely to understand the problem and its cause are those that work closest to it. Problem solving teams must involve these people and allow them to be treated as equals. Don’t limit these ‘solution management teams’ to a members from a single department or function: cross-section teams enable comprehensive problem solving.

Step 2: Look beyond the first solution

The first solution is often quickly established, and voiced by the most confident team members. Quieter, more introverted team players stay tight-lipped. Often these introverts hold within them the best ideas. Without allowing these ideas to be expressed, change management leaders run the risk of creating an environment of resistance with these quiet voices exploding into life around the water cooler.

Step 3: Encourage solutions to be discussed

Discourage – even ban – negative thinking, but encourage positive discussion of ideas. Look for facts and data to back up the existence of problems, and lead on to discovery of solutions, different possibilities, and evaluation of those solutions. Encourage people to look and think ‘outside the box’.

Step 4: Encourage a ‘why?’ attitude

Understanding that the first problem identified is never the root cause but is, instead, a symptom, means we need a method of drilling down to causality. The Japanese industrialist and inventor, Sakichi Toyoda, was the founder of Toyota Industries. However, one of his most lasting inventions was not mechanical but theoretical. His theory of ‘Five Whys’ tells us to ask why five times in order to establish cause and not treat symptoms.

Treating the cause of a problem is the only way to find a real solution and prevent its recurrence.

The Five Whys in action

While it is possible to draw on a range of business problems which have been resolved by the Five Whys Tool, its effectiveness is easily demonstrated by a universal example.

You miss your Friday morning session at the gym. Here are the five whys in action:

  1. Why did you miss your gym session?

Because the alarm didn’t go off.

  1. Why didn’t the alarm go off?

Because it had no batteries.

  1. Why didn’t it have any batteries?

Because I didn’t have time to buy any

  1. Why didn’t you have time to buy any?

Because I got stuck at work with a client

  1. Why did you get stuck at work with a client?

Because I hadn’t added the client meeting to my diary

The gym session was missed, which is a symptom of the alarm not going off. But, as can be seen, the root cause of the problem is, in fact, a badly maintained diary – which is, in itself, a symptom of poor time management. The solution is to ensure better time management and review the diary at the beginning and end of every day.

Successful change management relies upon resolution of problems and effective change of culture. A new style of team meetings, requiring redefined culture, will enable root causes to be discovered and resolved in the long term. It takes far longer to drill down to root cause than to find a solution. Make sure you ask your change management team to spend time on root cause discovery rather than symptom resolution.

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change management and innovation and leadership

As you can imagine, I spend a fair amount of time keeping up with changes and challenges faced by industry and business in the fields of change management and innovation. So I’m constantly on the lookout for information and news that may impact behaviour and best practice across organisations.

Here’s a pick of what I’ve been attracted to this week:

Change Management

How will organisational change management improve project performance in your organisation? templates and how to guides included.

Historically, we have approached change through information sharing and leadership, assuming with a good leader who is able to explain and offer rational and.

“Tait’s emphasis on a comprehensive implementation and support plan, incorporating deployment, migration, risk management, change management and project management were all key factors in securing the contract,” …

“Well, I don’t mind if the left want to have a fight with the Coalition about Australia’s history,” he said in an interview when I asked him what he thought of the term “history wars”. “But history is what it is. One can’t change it. … the government has changed in Canberra, that we’re not simply administering the previous government’s policies or views, and I know that the left will find that rather galling, and while we govern for everyone, there is a new management in town.”.

Some Australian businesses unaware of Privacy Act changes: survey. Thirty-five per cent of 200 IT managers interviewed did not know about the amendments. Hamish Barwick (Computerworld) on 21 October, 2013 11:54. 0; – · – · – · +1 · print …

This whitepaper outlines three product change management realities which may be holding you back and five fixes to rescue your change process.

Innovation News

This week Prime Minister Tony Abbott launched the Australian Government’s Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Strategy designed to drive economic diversity, encourage entrepreneurship and develop and support new …

The Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda is a central part of the Government’s Economic Action Strategy to build a strong, prosperous economy for a safe, secure Australia. The Government is acting to strengthen …

The Australian government’s Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda and the announcement of five industry growth centers released today has been welcomed by trade group Medicines Australia’s chairman Martin …

Just when we all started to believe that innovation in Australia was dying, we have come across an incredible company – Hideaway Beds. this video shows the.

Where My Words Have Travelled

publish around the place from time to time. Here’s the latest:

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are the subject of a lot debate in the blogosphere. Will they be a disruptive technology for universities? Will they take over the trainer’s job in corporate organizations?

From a higher education perspective, it’s easy to see the selling point for students

In 1987 Paul O’Neill became the CEO of Alcoa. Taking over the helm of a company usually means making grand statements about finances, about cutting costs, and change the investment priorities. But what O’Neill did at his first investor press conference was a little different.

To improve productivity in organizations you need only get leaders out in the field

The controversial Koch brothers wrote a book called the Science of Success (2007). I don’t recommend you read it as it’s one of those books that successful people write where they think they were successful because of these management techniques, whereas it’s more likely that because they were successful they could try out these management techniques (fads of the day?).

According to the ASTD’s 2013 State of the Industry Report, U.S. organizations spent $164.2 billion on employee learning and development in 2012. The report does a good job of categorizing and classifying expenditure. But what about ROI? How can managers structure training to ensure a positive ROI?

How often have you rolled out a new IT project that failed to deliver the desired benefits? Most projects fail to deliver benefits because of poor change management. Little to no attention is paid to the people side.

From the Vault

All too often, I hear that lean management is about cutting waste. Companies that stop here, however, are missing a big trick. Going further than cutting waste – creating improvements that benefit customers, shareholders, and staff – and seeking continuous improvements thereafter is the ultimate ambition of lean.

You can streamline your business and reduce process complexity by using process maps to identify the critical and the unnecessary areas in the maps. By identifying steps that add no value, or that lead to errors, you can remove or improve these to streamline your business and improve profitability.