Article

Imple­men­ta­tion

The answer to effec­tive change starts with these 5 questions

June 19, 2019

Change ini­tia­tives often meet with resis­tance. Many peo­ple find the idea of change unset­tling, espe­cial­ly when it leaves them ask­ing ques­tions that can’t be answered until the end of the project. Know­ing this, com­mu­ni­cat­ing effec­tive­ly with every­one affect­ed should be seen as a key aspect of man­ag­ing a change project.

Tak­ing a struc­tured approach to man­ag­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion with stake­hold­ers should help you get peo­ple engaged. This will help to stream­line the imple­men­ta­tion of your change pro­gramme and max­imise the like­li­hood of it result­ing in sus­tained improvements.

Because tru­ly under­stand­ing the stake­hold­ers of your change ini­tia­tive is absolute­ly para­mount in devel­op­ing that com­mu­ni­ca­tions plan, we’ll share with you the 5 pow­er­ful ques­tions we go through with our clients.

But first, a step back…

Before we do that, we invite you to take a step back and ask your­self: Have you already mapped out a well-rounded over­all pic­ture of the stake­hold­ers of this change?

To do that (some­thing we call “Stake­hold­er Map­ping”), you might want to con­sid­er the below:

1. List all those who are direct­ly or indi­rect­ly involved in the change ini­tia­tive. They are your “cus­tomers” of change.
2. The stake­hold­ers may be inter­nal (eg staff and con­trac­tors) or exter­nal (eg employ­ees of part­ner organ­i­sa­tions and actu­al cus­tomers). It will gen­er­al­ly be eas­i­er to keep in touch with inter­nal stake­hold­ers so, in the­o­ry, they’re like­ly to be more in the loop. Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with exter­nal stake­hold­ers may involve com­pli­ca­tions like sched­ul­ing chal­lenges, which can make it more dif­fi­cult to build up a dia­logue. How­ev­er they are less like­ly to be caught up in the pol­i­tics sur­round­ing the change.

3) Pri­ori­tise your “cus­tomers” of change by their influ­ence on the change ini­tia­tive. High­ly influ­en­tial peo­ple MUST be involved in dis­cus­sions and meet­ings to decide the direc­tion of the project. They will feel over­looked if they are not con­sult­ed, which could have a neg­a­tive impact on the dynam­ics of the project and dent progress. It’s a good idea to spend some time antic­i­pat­ing the needs of the high­ly influ­en­tial peo­ple, so you can respond to them quick­ly and efficiently.

4) Fur­ther clas­si­fy them by whether they are like­ly to be sup­port­ers, detrac­tors or on-the-fence. This mea­sure needs mon­i­tor­ing on a reg­u­lar basis, ide­al­ly week­ly, because sup­port­ers can be put off by some­thing as small as a com­ment in a meet­ing. Con­sid­er what you might do to reduce the risk of this hap­pen­ing and to boost over­all sup­port and keep this in mind for your com­mu­ni­ca­tion plan.

Tai­lor­ing your com­mu­ni­ca­tion plan using these 5 pow­er­ful questions

Hav­ing done that, you now have a clear­er view of the var­i­ous “cus­tomers” of your change ini­tia­tive. Answer­ing the fol­low­ing 5 pow­er­ful ques­tions for each cat­e­go­ry of stake­hold­er will help you gath­er the infor­ma­tion you need to devel­op a work­able com­mu­ni­ca­tion plan.

1. What effect will the project have on them?
Con­sid­er whether the suc­cess of the project would ben­e­fit the par­ty or not.

2. Will they be open­ly sup­port­ive, neg­a­tive or ambivalent?

Ide­al­ly you should aim to iden­ti­fy vocal mem­bers of mid­dle man­age­ment who are sup­port­ive. They’re in a prime posi­tion to share their views with their direct reports as well as senior leadership.
With­out the sup­port of this group, it will be dif­fi­cult to pro­ceed, so make sure to con­sult with them through­out the project.

If you iden­ti­fy peo­ple who you sus­pect will speak out against the project and try to block progress, you should con­sid­er ways to get them on board. At the very least you should make sure they feel lis­tened to and tak­en seriously.

3. What are their expec­ta­tions and how can these be managed?

You can gath­er this infor­ma­tion through inter­views, brain­storm­ing or surveys.
If it emerges that expec­ta­tions are stray­ing from the real­i­ty, you need to be ready to iden­ti­fy why this is and how to man­age it.

4. How will you com­mu­ni­cate with stakeholders?

How will you keep stake­hold­ers informed about progress?
Email updates? For­mal brief­in­gs for man­agers so they can cas­cade infor­ma­tion down to their teams? Town hall meet­ings? And how fre­quent­ly will you com­mu­ni­cate with them?

It’s impor­tant to ensure con­sis­ten­cy in your com­mu­ni­ca­tions to avoid mixed mes­sages cre­at­ing con­fu­sion. This needs good inter­nal team align­ment, so infor­mal chats by the water cool­er don’t lead to Chi­nese whispers.

5) Who would be the best per­son to inter­act with the stakeholders?

It might be that dif­fer­ent peo­ple will be best suit­ed to com­mu­ni­cat­ing with dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers. Who com­mu­ni­cates with who may be dic­tat­ed by the com­pa­ny cul­ture, and how hier­ar­chi­cal it is.
How­ev­er it will always be impor­tant for the project man­ag­er to liaise direct­ly with the CEO, or the most senior change cham­pi­on behind the initiative.

Ensur­ing effec­tive two-way communication

Tak­ing the time to go through this exer­cise could be CRUCIAL to the suc­cess of your change pro­gramme. Miss this step out and, how­ev­er big or small the project may be, the chances of fail­ure will be higher.
Ide­al­ly com­ing up with the answers to the ques­tions above and draw­ing up the com­mu­ni­ca­tion plan should be a team effort, to avoid con­flict and con­fu­sion fur­ther down the line.

The key mes­sage – com­mu­ni­cate reg­u­lar­ly with the right peo­ple in an appro­pri­ate way and ensure they know that the team man­ag­ing the projects is open to feed­back. And as the project pro­gress­es, make sure every­one on the team keeps an ear to the ground, so you can respond quick­ly if sup­port­ers become unhap­py for any reason.

At Renoir our team has accrued years of expe­ri­ence in run­ning change ini­tia­tives. Stake­hold­er man­age­ment is just one of the tools in the Renoir Toolk­it that helps to ensure the suc­cess of every project we work on. Why not get in touch to dis­cuss how we could help you embed change more suc­cess­ful­ly with­in your organisation?

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