Communicating Change

Communicating Change

1. Helping Others to Move Forward

As you plan your post-Lockdown business strategy and the changes to people and operations that this may involve, it’s imperative that your communication is well thought through, constructively reassuring and inclusive.  People react internally to the external changes that are happening around them and so an internal process of adjustment needs to happen as well as the practical external steps of the change.

The internal adjustment may not happen at the same pace as the external changes are put in place. Hence, people managers need to plan to help others to adapt to and accept change internally in addition to planning the logistics, systems, procedures and physical factors that need changing.

You can help by encouraging people to recognise what has ended and what is now different and this can be done by simply asking questions about the effects of the change on them as an individual.  Allowing them to talk through and explore these issues will help them to come to terms with the endings and therefore increase the speed at which they are prepared to move forward.

The Four P’s

•Project,
•Purpose,
•Particulars and
•People

This is a well known and effective change management activity for people managers  who are hoping to help employees better understand how the change will affect them and who wish to answer any questions about a change before it takes place, ideally reducing resistance to the changes.

On a white board or flip chart, draw four columns and label them “project, purpose, particulars and people.” Ask your group to help you fill out the chart one column at a time by saying how the upcoming change will affect each of the P’s.

Under the project column, list the upcoming changes. For the purpose column, list why the changes are being made. The particulars section should describe how the changes will be implemented, and the people section will describe which people will implement the change or be affected by it.

2. Keeping Change in Perspective and Reassuring Constructively

Recognising what will be the same helps people to understand the impact and extent of the change. It also provides some stability by identifying what will remain familiar to them.

Research shows that only 15% of someone’s role responsibilities has to change for the person to feel they had a completely new role.  Recognising what will be the same helps people to understand the impact and extent of the change. 

Ask the question, “Following this change, what remains the same?”  But don’t dismiss an individual’s concerns.  Reassure constructively with a plan.

3. Communicate Change Inclusively

Communicate as fully as possible: Ensure communication about the change gives as much information as possible, including explanations for the reasons for things happening. Feelings of personal uncertainty and insecurity about the future can lead to adverse reactions to change. By supplying information and explanations you will be able to counteract some of these adverse feelings. Even if you have nothing new to say, let people know when some new information will be available.

Involve people: Look to involve others (and yourself) in the changes wherever you can. It’s always possible to involve people in some aspect of the change however small that might be. This will help to give a feeling of control and therefore lessen the feelings of powerlessness that can lead to negative reactions to change.

Dealing with change  – the onion analogy: If you peel one layer at a time you can start to understand what level of resistance you are facing:
– I don’t understand why we need to change
– I don’t understand why this change
– I don’t like this change
– I don’t like you
– I like to resist

By asking questions to understand what lies behind an individual’s resistance to change, you can start to understand how to move them forward positively.  Each of these ‘layers of the onion’ needs to be dealt with specifically. If one layer doesn’t resolve the resistance, then you need to move on to the next.

4. Respecting Your Resisters and The Communicating Change Model

As you begin to understand just where each of your team members sits in terms of supporting or resisting the change, you might find the Communicating Change Model a helpful tool to work out how to move people to the ideal – a good understanding of the change and why it is needed and buy-in to the change process.  

Don’t forget to:

 – Embrace your change ambassadors and early adopters and invite them to help lead the change.

 – Nudge the bystanders or passive ones by talking to them and understanding just what will enable them to increase their active support.

 – Nip your resisters in the bud – buy taking an inclusive and constructive approach.  But respect your resisters too – by listening to their concerns carefully, you may find that some of these concerns are legitimate or that there is an alternative and possibly better way forward.

Virtual Bitesize Learning Sessions…
The material for our ‘Communicating Change’ article has been taken from a bite-size, virtual learning session, ‘Managing Others Through Change’ – one in a series of 4 short webinars designed to support managers with their people management skills and all staff to increase their personal effectiveness, particularly in the context of working remotely.  Please do get in touch if you would like more information about these sessions or to discuss how we can create and deliver content to suit your organisation’s specific learning needs.  Virtual learning sessions start from just £150 per session, can be run in isolation or as part of a broader series, and accommodate audiences of all sizes.

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