Let’s talk: The importance of communicating during transformation

You’ve got it – a vision; an end state; the future mode of operation for your organization. Ahhhh, bliss. Now what the heck do you do with it?

Identifying what you want your organization to look like is a huge feat… but bringing it there is even harder. Especially when we’re talking about large organizations with rich history and often an aversion to change.

Having worked through many transformations in large organizations, I believe the secret to building the foundation for the process to go smoothly is communication. It’s the critical aspect that can help you provide a quality end product.

In simpler terms, a strong communications strategy is an enabler to achieving your vision. Here are some critical questions to address in creating your communications strategy:

1)     Is the vision clearly defined and attainable? This is key in gaining buy-in. People need to understand where their organization is going and believe that getting there is possible in order to contribute.

2)     Has the sense of urgency been created? In other words, you need to convince your people that business as usual is unacceptable so they clearly see the need for change.

3)     Are the right people being informed at the right time? Sitting down at the beginning of the transformation and identifying all stakeholders can seem time-consuming, but it is necessary. Preparing a comprehensive timeline outlining everyone impacted with the timing of when they need to be involved is a great way to set yourself up for success, as excluding a key player can set you back and have major repercussions.

4)     Do you have an engagement strategy attached to your communications? Think about using pilots, trials, meetings or work sessions to engage your staff along the way. Look especially for those known as having influence over others as they can be crucial in guiding their colleagues through the transformation.

5)     Have you taken the time to properly educate the leaders? The leaders are the influencers, the ones managing the staff whose performance is the bread and butter of your organization. Major changes often fail because people leaders were not brought in soon enough and didn’t understand the need for change or the actual change itself. They need to be properly educated and equipped so they can navigate their teams through the transformation.

6)     Have you prepared key messaging, Q&As and all other communications tools that accurately convey the change and act as a guide for the leaders? Preparing a comprehensive communications package where details can be tailored for different levels of leaders and stakeholders provides a unified approach for everyone to communicate the correct information about the transformation. By controlling the messaging and proactively equipping people with the right information, you not only ensure everyone hears the same message but you eliminate room for assumptions and rumours.

7)     Is there a feedback mechanism in place? This is important for two very different reasons:
1. Questions: When large organizations go through transformation, there are always unanticipated questions. Having a centralized system where questions can be tracked and answers provided quickly helps alleviate uncertainty and demonstrates that you are committed to helping your people work through the changes.
2. Suggestions/feedback: As you go through the various steps in your communications process, providing an outlet for feedback helps you understand the successes and opportunities to improve the next time your organization goes through change. It also shows that you value their input and will actually apply it in the future.

In either case, the feedback mechanism can be as simple as a centralized email address, a blog, chat service, or meetings. Putting a system in place is an organized way to address concerns and compile information for lessons learned.

Executing a vision through transformation is a major undertaking that needs to be done thoughtfully. It’s important to do your due diligence and take the time and care to communicate so those on the journey know exactly where they’re going and how to get there.

Jessica is a business consultant with over ten years of experience working in both public and private sectors. Her ability to understand the clients perspective and aptitude for problem solving has led her to deliver transformational communications, change management, process improvement and performance measurement projects. Jessica is part of Systemscope’s Enterprise Renewal team.


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