Communicating organizational changes

The inspiration for this post was a Tweet I’ve bookmarked that goes “Never YOLO the communications plan”, from Julia Grace. Like her other advice it is worth emulating.

Why is it important?

A focus on communication in favour of other action can sometimes be viewed as inefficient or slow and there can be a temptation to get the message out quickly and keep moving. However, I have only seen this work well in larger top-down, mature organizations. This seems to be the case because the rate of change in such organizations is less frequent and other forms of support compensate e.g. well understood and well-run processes, support functions, and a clear hierarchy of information flow that typically follows the organizational hierarchy. In smaller, rapidly growing environments, information flows much more fluidly by design and it is particularly important to have communication done well, to prevent organizational fatigue. Neglecting communication leads to thrash, lack of alignment and a rapid erosion of trust. Think of communication as part of your organization’s DNA.

What qualifies?

Logistics

As a part of the roll out of changes, in addition to the initial communication via in-person conversations, team meetings and emails, it is also useful to follow up with forums for people to ask questions and share opinions.

Depending on the change itself, some useful options are:

  1. In-person or video facilitated question and answer sessions
  2. Drop-in optional office hours — particularly useful for changes that require work from people affected
  3. Dedicated Slack channels where people can drop in and ask questions in an async manner
  4. Mailing list to keep everyone up to date

The in-person forums in particular can seem intimidating to newer leaders and all of these options might also appear to be more work, but they help close the loop and help alignment, particularly where the change itself may be challenging to absorb.

A consistent theme around change management is doing the work and thinking through changes and their impact upfront to avoid pain later.

Hopefully this list of tools helps make them less nerve wracking for a few people reading this.

Template

  • What is the change?
  • Why is it happening?
  • Any major concerns
  • Who are the decision makers/people who have to sign-off on the change?
  • Who is affected by the change?
  • When are the changes effective?
  • Target communication date
  • FAQ and talking points
  • Any emails to be sent can also be drafted in the same documented or linked out.

Timeline for communication

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