Good communication starts from within - workshop giving an introduction to change project communicaiton

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This session was an introduction to managing communication on change projects. It was delivered on the second day of Apeiron Communication's conference "Good communication starts from within"

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  • Sponsors: these stakeholders set the direction, hold the budget and can release resources. They are comfortable dealing with a high level of ambiguity. Shapers: these stakeholders get involved at the design stage (this could be the design of an IT system, new ways of working or a product). They can see what the future looks like and are relatively comfortable with ambiguity. Schedulers: these stakeholders are often ‘gatekeepers’ they can get things done and make the implementation of the project happen. To do their job they often need detail on timescales and tasks so find ambiguity unhelpful. Those who will use the new service , adopt different ways of working etc (according to what the project is delivering). This group is less comfortable handling ambiguity because they want to know exactly what they need to do differently. Everyone will be in this position at some point in the project. The secret is to understand that every time you engage with a stakeholder they are thinking “what does it mean for me and what do you need me to do?” If you can’t answer (which isn’t the same as not wanting to answer) those questions, then maybe that person doesn’t need to be fully engaged just yet. If the person doesn’t need to do something to make the current project phase successful then they shouldn’t be your primary focus. That doesn’t mean you ignore them, but the approach is more measured.
  •   Do some reading: review the project documents   All projects will have documentation that can help the communicator. When you arrive on a project, it can pay to spend some quiet time reading key documents. This will help you to then ask the right questions and seem well informed. Depending on the size of the project and the project methodology being used, documents may vary in name and nature, but here are some valuable ones to review:   • The business case: this should set out the rationale for the project and the benefits to be gained.   • The vision and blueprint: used in change projects, this will tell you what the project wants to achieve and what the organisation will be like when the project completes.   • Project initiation document (PID): this should set out things like the objectives for the project, the scope, assumptions, deliverables, resources and risks.   • The risks and issues register: communication should be contributing to this either in terms of raising risks or providing mitigation of risks. Reviewing the register is a quick way to understand any problems that the project may face.   • Project plans and roadmaps: these are useful in that they set out what will be achieved by when and the communication plan should of course be aligned with them. But they rarely help you to really understand what is being done and why.   • Lessons learned: has a similar project been done before? If so, review the lessons learned document.   Ask the right people   When you arrive on the project, set up some short interviews with the primary project participants. Start with the project or programme manager and maybe ask their advice about whom to talk to. Get their support for this so that others can see that it is a priority.   Before you start your interviews, plan. Refer back to the project documentation and make sure that what you want to know isn’t included there. However, even if it is, you may want to clarify some points during the interview. It is important to make clear that you have read it; otherwise people may try to avoid answering questions by simply referring you back to their plan.   Draw up a short list of questions and, if the person you meet with doesn’t have the answer, ask them to point you to the right person.   In addition to the project (or programme) manager, other people to interview could include:   • Work stream leads (or project leads if it is a programme)   • Benefits manager   • Head of the project management office   • Business change lead   • Senior sponsor (sometimes referred to as the SRO: senior responsible officer/owner) Ask the right questions Project colleagues will very often be specialists in their field and focussed on what they have been asked to deliver – they don’t always see the bigger picture. Therefore, communicators need to ask the right questions to get the information that they need. Simply asking somebody what he or she are doing may result in a complicated description of some technical process, leaving the communicator more confused than ever! So, never just ask, “What are you doing?” Some possible questions might be: • Who will be affected by what you are doing? – within the project and outside it. The external perspective is important – it is essential to know, for example, if there is an impact on peoples’ jobs. • On who or what are you dependent to deliver your work? • Who is dependent on you? • What does success look like? • Ask how they would describe what the project is doing to their mum, a son or daughter – this can help to remove some of the jargon. As part of this exercise, check that there is a common understanding of the vision. If there isn’t, flag this to the project manager and work with him or her on a strategy to address it. Be at the right meetings The project communicator should be on the project or programme board. This presents a good opportunity to understand the project politics and where the project thinking is going. It can be easy to spend all day at meetings, so be selective. Review the terms of reference (TOR), action logs and minutes for each meeting and make a judgement about whether attendance would be helpful. Find out how the project fits into the wider context Having started to understand your own project, make sure you know how it fits into any wider portfolio. There may be opportunities to do joined-up communication and messaging which is good practice. It can also help to avoid any clashes of communication. Another important benefit of looking beyond the project is the opportunity to meet up with other communicators. Often the project communicator is something of a ‘lone voice’ and this can feel quite isolating. Being part of a network of communicators brings support and means there are people to share ideas with in – provided there are no confidentiality concerns of course.  
  • Good communication starts from within - workshop giving an introduction to change project communicaiton

    1. 1. Communicating change Managing communication on change projects Ann Pilkington
    2. 2. Developing communication and engagement strategies that support change Research indicates that up to 70 per cent of change programmes fail and poor internal communication is seen as the principal reason for such failure. Daly, Teague and Kitchen (2003)
    3. 3. Managerial strategies for communicating about change Strategy Definition Spray and pray Management showers employees with all kinds of information in the hope that employees will be able to sort out significant and insignificant information Tell and sell Management selects a limited set of messages regarding core organizational issues. Management “tells” employees about these issues and then “sells” employees on the wisdom of the chosen approach Underscore and explore Management focuses on fundamental issues related to change success and allows employees the creative freedom to explore various possibilities Identify and reply Management listens to and identifies key concerns of employees and then responds to those issues as they are brought up Withhold and uphold Management withholds information as much as possible. When management is confronted with questions or rumours they uphold the party line. Adapted from Clampitt, DeKoch and Cashman, in Miller, K (2009, p186)
    4. 4. Our case study for today You work for an IT company in Sofia called Fantastic IT which employs 800 people. Your company has just bought a small IT company called Little IT that has two small offices in Sofia and employs 200 people. These offices will close and staff will move to the head office of Fantastic IT. Both companies employ engineers, software developers and call centre staff.
    5. 5. Seven rules of change project communication
    6. 6. Rule 1: Planning is everything, the plan is nothing Well, not quite nothing, but it is easy to get swept along on a tide of complex Excel spread sheets and Prince II methodology. Keep it simple and ensure you strike the right balance between developing the plan and its delivery. Set objectives, make them SMART and about outcomes (such as changes in behaviour) as well as outputs (e.g. how many newsletters have been issued). And get your project leadership team to buy into them. Top tip: be careful not to be judged only on how much you do. The outcomes are what matter.
    7. 7. Rule 2: Right stakeholder, right time Be clear about which stakeholders you need to involve at each stage and what your approach needs to be. Set out a clear timetable for engagement. Then you can tell people when you are going to involve them and how. Top tip: stakeholders will vary in importance throughout the lifecycle of your project, so review them regularly.
    8. 8. Who are the stakeholders for our case study?
    9. 9. LEVEL OF INTEREST P O W E R L O W LOW HIGH MINIMAL EFFORT KEEP INFORMED H I G H KEEP SATISFIED KEY PLAYERS Adapted from Mendelow 1991, cited in Johnson and Scholes 2002: 208)
    10. 10. LEVEL OF INTEREST P O W E R L O W LOW HIGH INFORM CONSULT H I G H INVOLVE PARTNER
    11. 11. Change projects and communication Stakeholder engagement – A project approach
    12. 12. Step 1 Identify the role (or maybe roles) that your stakeholder will play. Are they sponsors, shapers, schedulers or users of the new service?
    13. 13. • Sponsors: these stakeholders set the direction, hold the budget and can release resources. They are comfortable dealing with a high level of ambiguity. • Shapers: these stakeholders get involved at the design stage (this could be the design of an IT system, new ways of working or a product). They can see what the future looks like and are relatively comfortable with ambiguity. • Schedulers: these stakeholders are often ‘gatekeepers’ they can get things done and make the implementation of the project happen. To do their job they often need detail on timescales and tasks so find ambiguity unhelpful. • Those who will use the new service, adopt different ways of working etc (according to what the project is delivering). This group is less comfortable handling ambiguity because they want to know exactly what they need to do differently. Everyone will be in this position at some point in the project. The secret is to understand that every time you engage with a stakeholder they are thinking “what does it mean for me and what do you need me to do?” If you can’t answer (which isn’t the same as not wanting to answer) those questions, then maybe that person doesn’t need to be fully engaged just yet. If the person doesn’t need to do something to make the current project phase successful then they shouldn’t be your primary focus. That doesn’t mean you ignore them, but the approach is more measured.
    14. 14. Step 2 Decide what it is that the project needs from that stakeholder in order to help it to hit its milestones and achieve its benefits; what is the objective of the communication activity? This step is often missed with project managers simply stating that they want the support of the stakeholder. Being clear about what is needed from each stakeholder is essential to the communication strategy, otherwise the relationship will be unfocussed and measuring success won’t be possible.
    15. 15. Step 3 Map this analysis to the project lifecycle so that you know when you will need to engage. According to the Association for Project Management a typical project lifecycle is: concept, definition, development, handover, benefits. If your project is broken down differently, that’s fine, this isn’t a rigid approach.
    16. 16. Step 4 Design an appropriate communication strategy for that stakeholder. ....... Remember what their role is, what you need them to do, by when and how much ambiguity you think they are comfortable dealing with. If you engage a user early in the project lifecycle before you can confirm details you may need to tell them when they can expect certainty. The approach is likely to vary through the project lifecycle. For example, sponsors will be the main focus of engagement at the start, but once they are comfortable that the project is on track it may be sufficient to keep them informed of progress.
    17. 17. Seven rules of change project communication Rule 3
    18. 18. Rule 3: Take an engagement approach Employee engagement results from giving people a voice. But to make the most of that voice, employees need to know what is going on and why. So, accurate and timely information (not propaganda) is essential. And that voice must be listened to. Take a look at your project – how and when are employees involved? What are you doing to ensure that what they say is helping to shape what is done? Get it right and your change project could increase employee engagement. Top tip: close the loop – ensure you let people know how their feedback is being used and, if it can’t shape the project, explain why.
    19. 19. Three components of organisational employee engagement Feeling well informed. Manager commitment Opportunities for upward feedback (Truss, 2006, p. xi)
    20. 20. Feeling really well informed. Professional Timely, clear, accurate, pertinent, consistent, sincere, concise, business-like. Reinforces believable values and narrative. Propaganda Content is biased and does not reflect reality. Reinforced by managers who show commitment to the organisation.
    21. 21. Upward feedback Advanced Based on people feeling well informed in the first place, face to face, actions taken as a result or reasons why action not taken provided. Basic Surveys, suggestion schemes, email boxes. Reinforced by managers who are open to critical feedback.
    22. 22. Bringing it to life - The role of the middle manager Many middle managers view their roles as tactical, and not strategic. There is often a communications block between middle managers and their people Operational: • Tactical project management • Business targets • Logistics People Management: • Performance • KPIs • Recruitment Operational: • Tactical project management • Business targets • Logistics People Management: • Communication • Engagement • Performance • KPIs • Recruitment • Morale EXPECTED ROLE CURRENT ROLE 80% 20% 50% 50%
    23. 23. Rule 4: Deal effectively with ambiguity Communicating change can be a difficult balancing act. It is important to start communicating as soon as possible, but you invariably won’t have all the answers from the outset. So what should you do? Well, you shouldn’t be afraid to tell people that you don’t have a particular answer. However, it is important to explain why you don’t. People need and like signposts. If you are waiting for some development work to happen or a decision to be taken at a board meeting, say so. Set out a process for reporting and keep people informed, particularly if timings slip. Top tip: help managers to support their staff by ensuring they understand when and how decisions will be made.
    24. 24. The say-do matrix Adapted from Harkins, P. 1999 Powerful Conversations: How high impact leaders communicate. McGraw Hill
    25. 25. Communication and change 1.Complacent 2.Denial 3.Resistance 4.Accept 5.Enthuse 6.Commit Implementation…………….post-implementation
    26. 26. Rule 5: Keep it stakeholder centred There may be a number of parts to your project or lots of projects within your programme, but what matters to your stakeholder? Build your approach around them and their role. Ask what it means for a line manager, HR colleagues and operatives on the shop floor, then design your communication accordingly. Top tip: there is no such audience as ‘all employees’.
    27. 27. Rule 6: Tell a joined up story It is likely that your project is just one of a number of change initiatives happening across your organisation. How are employees meant to make sense of it all? You need to set your project in the context of what else is happening – tell one joined-up story rather than leave staff to work out how it all fits together. Doing this effectively means forging relationships with other communicators working on other projects and at a corporate level. You need to ensure that your project has an appropriate share of voice. For your project team it may be the most important thing in their world, but employees might have much bigger concerns. Top tip: tell a story about your project to help employees make sense of what is happening. ’.
    28. 28. What would our story be?
    29. 29. Rule 7: Always think about the external implications too Is your project doing something that might be of interest to the media, or to politicians (local and/or national)? If you think it is, talk to your press office and come up with a ‘handling strategy’ together. The press love an ‘IT-gone-wrong’ story, jobs being lost – or gained – and anything to do with the environment. Be prepared. The chances are it won’t come to anything, but you will have the respect of your peers and your stakeholders if it does and you are ready and equipped to deal with the situation. Top tip: no communication should ever be thought about as just internal. No matter what protective marking you put on it, what you communicate could end up anywhere, so always keep that in mind.
    30. 30. What might be the external implications of this change?
    31. 31. Communication and change: tips •Sign post •‘What does it mean to me’ – NOT what is in it for me •Tell a joined up story – think story, not messages and bring in the external environment •Support managers •Always do what you say you will do – and if you can’t, explain why •Communicate in the right order; plan, plan, plan, by the hour if necessary
    32. 32. Change projects and communication Understanding the project
    33. 33. Read the project documentation Ask the right people Ask the right questions Be at the right meetings Find out how the project fits into the wider context
    34. 34. And remember...... Be clear about the role of communication – it isn’t a substitute for good governance or line management. Importantly, communication can’t make sense of something nonsensical. Sometimes the problem is with the solution being implemented and communicators need to be able to recognise this and push back when the expectation is on them to fix it. No amount of communication, however creative, can turn a bad solution into a good one. Change curve – remember people will take time to accept the change
    35. 35. Thank you !

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