Getting the communication right
Appropriate communication is a critical success factor for any business process improvement initiative. In this article I would like to look at how and when communication will have a positive impact on your improvement efforts.
Starting communication early, sharing your goals and the approach you are going to use to make your process improvements can motivate people to commit to the change by showing them the expected benefits and what early results they can expect. But you must be cautious as, if you get the message wrong, or communicate too much, you are likely to frustrate the very people you are trying to get involved. This can cause them, ultimately, to resist the changes you are making.
Meeting differing communication needs
There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to effectively communicating. Different people absorb and accept information in different ways, so it is important that, when designing a plan, we attempt to meet a variety of communication needs.
There are a multitude of ways that we can communicate improvement programs and using a balance of these will help reach all those who may be impacted:
- Posters, flyers, brochures
- Regular newsletters
- Social Media
Getting up close and personal
These are, predominantly, formal types of communication. Possibly more important is real face-to-face communication, getting out and speaking to the people who will be impacted by the change.
These interactions give people a chance to ask questions and express concerns and frustrations. This is how you build trust. Effective change is all about showing up and being visible. Some ways of initiating this, more personal, communication is:
- Kick-off meetings
- Training and coaching sessions
- Team meetings
- One-on-one discussions
- Simply walking around and discussing the change
Change is challenging
Business process improvement initiatives are, by their very nature, challenging. These projects have a potential to impact the entire organization and to change the way people are used to working. For this reason, it is important that the socializing of the potential change begins BEFORE the project formally begins.
Socialization is all about getting people comfortable with the potential outcomes of a planned initiative. This allows you to increase organizational confidence in a change that is going to happen – it is not an opportunity for people to veto what you are planning to do, but it does give you a chance to covert those who may be uncertain about the value of the change into your champions. You will find that a converted detractor will be a far more powerful champion than someone who was always in favour of the change you are planning.
Cover all bases
Your communication plan needs to provide opportunities to meet the needs of everyone who needs to know about the change. It also needs to provide ample opportunity for engagement, providing a real forum that allows for two-way communication.
Your communication plan is not a ‘set and forget’ type of endeavour. It must be revisited regularly to ensure that it meets all current needs of the organization.
Your initial communication plan may, by necessity, focus on “selling” the initiative to the business; but, once you have been able to gain buy-in and secure champions for the change, it will be important that you change your communication plan so that it less about selling and more about informing.