I enjoyed the recent article over on Global Services by the title of Wrecking Ball that noted that implementation of new operating models requires the corporate equivalent of wrecking an old building in order to build anew, yet few corporate managers are trained to swing the wrecking ball carefully, communicate in the most effective way to employees, and prepare for the fallout.
As the author notes, for many corporate change managers, preparing to communicate with employees is the last tick in the box. Too many managers assume that the responsibility can be offloaded to HR or the internal communications department when the reality is that only the managers who understand the scope – the work, employees, internal customers and potential impacts – can effectively swing the wrecking ball and manage the inevitable issues that are going to arise from a major change.
Furthermore, communication preparation should begin at the strategic planning stage, not at the beginning of implementation. This is the best time to prepare the right message – which must be clear, factual, and consistently communicated. Employees need to understand the reasons for change if they are to embrace them. As the article notes, simple oblique statements such as “we need to be competitive” can sound like corporate code for increase executive compensation – and is not going to be very inspirational.
Once the core message is drafted, it’s time to list all the affected stake-holders, determine who realizes the rewards and who pays for the gains, and develop a plan to address their specific concerns. This will require targeted messaging to them on top of the basic message. Be sure to plan for the inevitable backlash, and craft appropriate responses as well.
Once the messaging is worked out, you can work out the roadmap and implementation plan as you know you will be able to start delivering the right messaging to the right stakeholders at the right time. This plan should include performance incentives as productively tends to decline precipitously immediately after a major change is announced. It should also include a plan for dealing with voluntary attrition, as some people will get nervous, fear for their jobs, and seek new employment elsewhere. And, of course, constant communication that addresses all of the concerns as they arise.