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Following many years—at least a decade—of change management professionals and other leadership gurus repeating in some variation that there can never be enough communicating for a successful change, this thrust is perhaps the most identifiable with change management. Sadly, overcompensation toward that (justified) point has had the unintended consequence of rendering “communication” synonymous with “change management” in too many people’s minds. This is as wrong as believing change management is just about ensuring people are trained.

Change and communication

The point of there never being enough (or, more recently, not “the right” amount of) communication refers mostly to communication for information purposes. Keeping everyone informed and up-to-speed has many direct and knock-on effects among the cadre required to change. The underlying message(s) can serve many purposes. A message can be tuned to either—or both—the rational and emotional centres of the receiver’s brain. So, the overt purpose to communicate changes may be banal while the heavy lifting is being done in the subtext meant to shape perceptions and persuade.

Communication as a direct objective is commonly understood as the “Comms Plan.” It is the stream of messages directed at the target audience. Ideally it has a flow or narrative storyline not just within the individual communications themselves, but across instances of interaction with that audience. This communication narrative needs to build—because people build their mental position toward a change—over time.

Multiple influences toward the same end (e.g., a series of messages from different senders in support of the same objective) will raise the campaign’s likelihood of success. The ADKAR model by Prosci captures the common progression of narrative development well.

Change communication is essential to execute on the other thrust areas. People can’t be trained—or even enrolled for training—without some kind of communication. It sounds and is obvious. What may be less obvious is that these ancillary communications are also part of the longitudinal build of the persuasive narrative story. They are touches on the target audience. Only an amateur would not use these obligatory excuses to have contact with the audience as a vital means to advance the overall cause. I say this because I’ve seen far too many people who apparently knew better not do so… and blow it.

Remember: every part of the change management campaign for hearts and minds has to be immersive. Like all the other aspects of change management, communication is indisputably valuable and individually very strong. When used by the professional change manager to knit together the yarn of a narrative using all thrust areas, they become especially powerful.

Communications playbook

The Playbook identifies communication development and deployment (i.e., schedule, responsibility, etc.) but focuses on content development and deployment. Because the underlying philosophy is to support specific individuals to make specific behaviour adjustments, change management communication work builds atop that base. Insights about individuals and the required (from/to) behaviour changes critical in the first steps of the Playbook are the foundation for effectively persuasive messaging and how it can be delivered through all aspects of change management (by sponsors, broadcast communications, in training, by coaches, and more).


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