Think about the last time you learned about a change – one that had implications for your life – right as or right before it occurred. It may have been an increase in an annual payment, the layoff of colleagues or a change in your retirement benefits. Think about how that change felt. Were you angry? Did you feel caught off guard? Did you feel betrayed? Did it weaken your trust in those implementing the change?
If you are responsible for implementing or announcing any kind of change, remember that feeling.
Whether you are responsible for small incremental changes like the modification of a policy or large transformative changes like a restructuring of benefits, remember what it feels like to have a change dropped on you without any warning.
One of the keys to successfully implementing a change is communication. While most of us would agree, we can likely identify times when we haven’t done a good job of communicating an upcoming change to our family, friends, co-workers or constituents. Sometimes the reasons are benign. Implementing change requires managing a lot of moving parts. Figuring out how to share information is just one of those parts. It takes time and coordination to draft messages that will help others understand the need for the change and how it will affect them. If you are pushing hard to meet a deadline, you may not allot the time necessary to develop a coherent communication plan.
Unfortunately, sometimes our reasons are less benign. When we hold information that is going to affect the way others work, manage their budgets or influence their life choices, we are exerting power over them. Remember that feeling when you were caught off guard. When we do not effectively communicate upcoming changes, we are essentially saying, “The effect of this change on you does not matter.” That is often not what we intend and it is definately not a way to strengthen relationships.
If the effect of change on others does matter to you, then make sure that your change communications reflect that. Change communication plans can be relatively simple or incredibly complex depending on the size of your organization and the type of change you are implementing. But, unless your goal is to make those affected by change lose confidence in you, build resistance against the change or even end their relationship with you, developing an effective change communication plan is in your best interest.
Want to learn more about developing effective change communication plans? Contact me.