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Archive for January, 2012

Change Communication: Strategies that produce exceptional results

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

I don’t like templates for change communication plans.  Why?  Because no two organisational cultures are the same and you cannot just lift one approach from one organisation to another and assume it will produce the same results.

Also speaking of results I am not interested in results such as awards for well designed intranet sites, number of visitors to portals, the number of people that turned up to a CEO presentation or later said it was good or the worse I have seen, asking staff to recall what the key points were in a presentation.

And the reason why is that none of the above can directly be linked to bringing about results in terms of business outcomes, all they will ever do is measure the quality of your information strategies not your communication strategies and the difference is huge.

A bit provocative – let me explain why.  Let’s suppose you are meeting with the CEO of your organisation, his concern is that the value he is looking for from change communication is that you have been able to connect with the audience, that you have been able to engage them, bring them to that “Aha” moment when they finally understand why things are changing and what they can do differently to contribute to this, the what is the easy stuff, it is information, it engages no one it simply informs them about what is changing.  Even if you write stories, post interview videos online all about the why as well as the what, unless you design strategies that can be measured by business impact not by readership then your change communication strategies will not produce exceptional results.

Here’s a simple example.

The Business Objective:

This hospital wanted to cut costs while at the same time ensuring that its patients were not adversely affected by the changes.  The hospital was also a major provider of healthcare in a small community, so it was essential that its reputation of high-quality care was not reduced.

The Method:

The hospital wanted to ensure that its personal care remained at the highest standard.  So they sought feedback through focus groups, telephone surveys and directly contacting the carers.  Three key attributes in patient care emerged as the main contributors to patient satisfaction.  The hospital staff concentrated on improving these three areas while simultaneously reducing costs. Cross-functional teams were then established with employees who volunteered to take part.  An employee with strong project management skills was selected to lead each team.  They then presented management with a list of options to improve the experience of the patients, with details of the costs and timeframes for implementation.  Agreement was reached on the changes and the senior management team ensured line managers were not barriers to the implementation.

The Outcome:

As a result of the changes implemented, patient satisfaction rose to 98%.  This significantly high score contributed to a great lift in employee morale and increased motivation despite the cost-cutting activities. Employees were directly involved in implementing the improvements, and a staff survey indicated greater levels of job satisfaction.

Now the usual change communication approach would have been a CEO forum where the head of the hospital would have explained to employees why they needed to cut costs, then updates would be provided via email and the intranet on changes, there would have been face to face communication between team leaders and staff on cost cutting – all of this would just have been information.  But by communicating and engaging the audience, both staff employed by the hospital and carers a change communication strategy was implemented that could be measured by achieving the business objectives.

In my manual, The Future of Employee Communication – 50 Case Studies of Excellence you will find more ideas on exceptional strategies you can implement that can be measured by business outcomes.

I look forward to reading your comments on strategies you have implemented and how they contributed to business results.