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Change Management Communication Plan: How to Keep Your Team Informed

Oct 21, 2019 by Mike Weaver

This is part two of our MAD Change series. You can find part one here

In 2018, the global value of mergers and acquisitions was reported to be $3.8 trillion – an annual increase of 4%. This upward trend looks set to continue, as ambitious organizations strike eye-catching deals on a near-daily basis.

However, having worked alongside many firms embarking on this journey – helping to consolidate IT systems as part of our wide-ranging Office 365 migration services – I’ve seen first-hand the chaos and confusion that often exists among teams who quite literally don’t know whether they’re coming or going.

While I’m experienced in overseeing the technical side of change, I teamed up with business coach MJ Flanagan to discuss the importance of implementing a change management communication plan that keeps all stakeholders in the loop. This is the Inform stage of our MAD Change Model.

Your Change Management Communication Plan

MJ: Inform. So, what do we mean? We main developing a change management communication plan – a multifaceted communications plan – that will work across the journey of the change that’s happening.

What does that actually mean? Two-way communication; listening, not just telling, understanding of what’s not being said, and then using all the channels of communication that are open to you.

It’s about being honest and open.

The initial stages of an effective change management communication plan.

Often, we’ve found that leaders can hide behind a wall of confidentiality – “I don’t really know this yet,” – to defer tough conversations, so actually don’t know what to say.

Our teams, our IT teams – they’re intelligent, they know what’s going on, so inform them what you can, when you can.

Mike: Why is this important? People need information, we mentioned this in the Impact phase.

These projects bring out very raw emotions and stress in people. Because of this, people often worry about the worst-case scenario. As a leader, we want to ensure that we’re communicating effectively to our team.

We still may not know the plan or know everything that’s going to happen, and it’s OK to share that. This adds to the level of uncertainty, which at this phase can be difficult, but it’s better than making things up or having your staff make things up as we go.

Why a change management communication plan is important

This open communication continues to build trust in your teams and will continue to help you through the other phases of this project It’s important to also understand the level of understanding. In your team.

In the next section, MJ is going to talk about how you can apply these skills in this phase.

MJ: So, we’ve heard from Mike why this is so important, but how are we going to do it? How are we going to do it effectively? Well, first and foremost: be visible, be accessible.

Often, I have found that at times of high stress – for example, during mergers, acquisitions and divestitures – that people want to hide, they feel uncomfortable, they don’t know what to say.

Well, our teams are intelligent, they know what’s happening. They may not know the details, but they know there’s going to be major change, and with mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, there may well be casualties.

So be open and honest. That’s going to develop trust. And by developing trust, we can keep our teams engaged.

So what forums are there for you to use? Well, I think of them as formal and informal.

Our formal – our town halls, focus groups, project teams, one-to-ones. And during this series, when we investigate how we’re going to integrate and influence and involve others, we’ll talk about those in more detail.

But actually, those formal channels, little and often, can help people keep informed.

Essential steps in change management communication planning

What do we know? Well, we know that if they are not given information, they’ll make up their own. And that is so much harder for leaders to change.

Don’t forget those informal channels; actually they’re more powerful. Coffee chats, Drinks after work, sitting next to each other and working. it’s at those times your teams are more likely to open up to you, and by truly understanding the impact on them, you can then help them navigate to the new landscape.

Read more: Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestitures: Assessing the Impact of Change

Also, consistent messaging. Now, you can only achieve that, if you are kept informed yourself. Ask questions, get to the root. Now if that means you have to change your messaging, fine – put your hands up, say it. “OK, the goalposts have moved here.”

But ensure that – across teams, across the organization, through the different departments and channels – that we’re hearing the same messaging. And if you’re not sure, ask.

We also know that people will absorb information from different channels. So, this is why a multi-channel, multifaceted approach is important, whether it be Town Halls, team meetings, or blogs or vlogs. They don’t have to be long, but what they can do is make sure that we capture everybody.

And then be there; keep the lines of communication open. Be honest. Little and often. And the last element of this is, don’t just tell – listen.

Mike: So, MJ, another question that comes up sometimes in this is – and we run into this in projects that sometimes have a false start, they don’t execute quite well, these projects are quite difficult – so, sometimes we waited too long to have these conversations, so some of the people looking for this information may find that they didn’t do these things.

What’s your advice for people that might be starting this, I don’t want to say late, but not as soon as we would hope?

MJ: Don’t have ‘delay paralysis’. It is OK to go back to the beginning, and it’s alright to admit it and say, “You know what? We haven’t spoken about this up until now, but let’s start.”

Again, honest and open.

Mike: it’s amazing, I think when you show your own mistakes and that you’re willing to be vulnerable, people open up more and it’s amazing, you know – “I’m sorry,” – we learned this in kindergarten, but amazing how it, still today, that helps us through this.

MJ: It does. Be mindful of when you are showing your vulnerability that you don’t use that as an opportunity to share your concerns, your moans, your groans – because that will impact negatively, not positively.

Mike: Absolutely. Great, thank you for joining us today on the Inform section. We’ve got both the Intro before this and several videos after, going through the full Impact to Integration framework.

Informing your next move

If your organization is in the throes of a merger, acquisition or divestiture, and you’re in need of technical expertise to consolidate your IT infrastructure, please learn more about Quadrotech’s Office 365 tenant to tenant migration services.

And if you’re keen to learn more about how you can coach and develop your leadership team to create a meaningful change management communication plan that keeps your workforce informed every step of the way, check out MJ’s comprehensive business coaching services.

In the next part of this series, we’ll be examining the Investigate stage of our MAD Change Model, so keep your eyes peeled on our blog.