So often, project teams are so deep in the work of the system or process they’re designing that they forget about the path they traveled to get to where they are. As a result, when it comes time to roll out the program, their definition of “the beginning” may not be at all where someone with less information may need to start.
In consulting with colleagues about communication regarding whatever program they’re rolling out (as well as training that’s in development), the most frequent advice I give is to provide more context.
Give the bigger picture of how this project came to be.
- What issue is being addressed?
- What were the objectives of the work?
- What was the scope of exploration and analysis?
- Who was involved?
- What solutions did the team come with?
- What other options were considered but discarded and why?
- What are the intended benefits of the recommended solution?
- What are the risks of carrying on without this change?
Highlight how what they’re being asked to do connects with this bigger picture
- How does it contribute to the end goal?
- What are other teams depending on them to do?
- What inputs will they get from others to do their work fully?
- When and in what format?
- When will the change be implemented?
- Back to the big picture, is there a phased approach to facilitate implementation?
- If so, what does that look like?
- How will they learn what they’re expected to do?
- Who will train them and when?
- What types of support can they expect after training and before go-live?
- What about after go-live?
People are so much more willing to travel the path from awareness to understanding to adoption to ownership if they understand why a proposed change is happening and how they fit in. Without context, they will either fill gaps with speculation or feel paralyzed to move forward because they lack understanding.
Another thing to consider is perspective. Who’s the audience and what do they need to do with the information?
- For executive stakeholders, a high level description may be enough to enroll them.
- For individual contributors who have to execute the details, you’ll have to provide more granular information.
- In all cases, a 50,000 foot view is helpful to sketch out the playing field and ensure common understanding before diving deeper. That way, individuals can see how their work relates to that of other teams and the project as a whole.
- An effective communication plan will toggle between these different levels of detail, according to stakeholder needs and the objectives of any given component of that plan.
As I said in my first blog post on change management (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/trifecta-effective-change-management-greg-matsunami?trk=mp-reader-card), the more I work in this arena, the more I discover the value of simple truths. To bring people along on a journey of change, it is critical to give them the context of where they are, where they’re going and why. A comprehensive change management strategy will ensure stakeholder engagement and reduce resistance due to confusion or lack of clarity.
But it starts with context. Always.