We have seen more organizations than we care to remember that have waited and waited and waited and waited to say anything at all about a change that was being implemented. And when they finally did start talking, it was as if a flood of information had just breached a levee.
If you have ever been on the receiving end of the “flood” style of communications, you know it isn’t really effective. In fact, burying people in details about something that is happening in an organization before people even know “why” is this happening actually usually backfires. People shut down, tune it out, and duck into their cubes to wait for it all to pass.
Understanding the key messages that should be sent about a change at any given time is critical to effective communication and change management. Outlining what to communicate and when is a great start to ensuring that a consistent and relevant message stream reaches people in the organization.
To make it simple, start with outlining your initial “level 1 messages.” These are simple statements that answer questions such as: What is this project or change? How does this link to other projects or initiatives going on? Why is this important? What is the end result? What is the timing?
If any of the “simple statements” above is more than 30 words, try again. It is too much.
The “level 1 messages” should be consistent throughout the project and set the context from beginning to end. It is like saying we are taking a trip from New York to California. We will have different messages along the way about where we are, who is driving, sights along the way, etc…. but we always tie our messages back to the fact that we are on a trip from New York to California.
Next, develop “level 2 messages” that address group specific impacts and concerns. These might change over time as we learn more and additional concerns are unearthed. But start by developing answers to the following questions for each group that will be impacted: What specific impacts will this group have? How will specific concerns for this group be addressed? What specific job changes will happen?
The key messages are a critical component of an effective change management program. If you can’t answer some of these questions now about a change you are involved with or are managing, most likely impacted stakeholders can’t either. And until they can, the change won’t stick.