How to Communicate Change Management

As the old saying goes, change is the only constant. Changes can impact an organisation locally as well as globally. We will be focusing on the latter. When organisations talk about change management they refer to the one that impacts every stakeholder – internal as well as external.

A few examples of change:

  • New brand positioning – impacts both internal and external stakeholders 
  • New top management – impacts internal as well as external stakeholders
  • M&A – impacting internal stakeholders more in terms of adapting to the new culture
  • High Performance Organisation – for internal stakeholders directly impacting performance measures
  • Leaner organisation – for internal stakeholders directly impacting job

[Book Cover] How To Communicate Strategically in Corporate World
How to communicate strategically in corporate world by Prof. (Dr.) Mahul Brahma

Now let us understand what is the need for strategic communication. In case of change management it is important segment the communication in phases and then divide the audience into segments and create tailored communication targeting the segments across the phases.  For a leader, strategic communication is the only tool that has the potential to reach out to every stakeholder, internal and external.

The key is to communicate the perspective of a leader to make any change management successful. It needs to be communicated with utmost clarity from the start so that no void of information is created. Any delay in communications will fire the rumour mills and miscommunications will start snowballing. This is a time when change turns into a crisis.

The first communication informing the change needs to come directly from the leader — MD/CEO/Chairman, otherwise the gravity of the transformation is lost. So a leader needs to organise an opportunity wherein he or she as decision maker gets a platform to reach out to internal stakeholders directly.

The strategic objective of this communication is to establish the raison-d’etre for change.

The first communication has the power to make every internal stakeholder responsible and key for the change – co-creating the change.

It is very important to remember that transparency is the key. There are occasions when it is seen that employees have found out about strategic changes via news reports or from their friends or sources outside the organisation. This is a recipe for disaster. An organisation will end up alienating key stakeholders and your change will never be effective.

Communication strategy has to be an inverted pyramid – top, senior, middle and junior management. With the bottom of the pyramid addressed first and then once an organisation has their buy-in it helps pave the foundation for the change to be internalised and owned by the entire company. The subsequent communications, internal and external, by the leader have to be targeted.

The biggest challenges for any change management come from stakeholders – both internal and external. They may not be aligned with the change. And honestly, no one likes change. Change is uncertain and the stakeholders may feel insecure with the change, there is also the issue of relevance, especially with internal stakeholders. For example, if the change entails a greater degree of automation or a greater intervention of Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning as a strategic objective, people will fear loss of jobs. It is natural. So any change is bound to face obstacles. So it is the responsibility of the top management through strategic and transparent communication to explain that without this change the company is likely to become obsolete and shut down. It is only then the real buy-in comes.

For any change management to be successful, buy-in from stakeholders is non-negotiable. The management needs to convince the internal stakeholders the benefit for the organisation from the change and then how that benefit will translate into benefit of internal stakeholders. For example, when a company shuts down stores it is perceived only to be a bad news. However, you can also choose to look at it this way that the company is actually stopping its loss and making its existence viable for the existing employees as well as shareholders. It is always a matter of perception. That is the job of a leader to create the right optics to ensure stakeholder alignment. Without the alignment of the internal stakeholders no change can be effective. So effectiveness is an outcome of the degree of alignment of the stakeholders, especially internal. Ineffective communication will always result in lack of alignment and thus the outcome will be clear with the organisation not able to meet its strategic objective.

Effectiveness of the communication is measured by the effectiveness of the change management. While strategic communication is the key, never forget it is a means not an end. So the measure of success of communication has to be the success of the change management and the effectiveness with which it is managed across all the phases. So every phase milestone will have a strategic communication milestone attached to it and this is how the journey takes place towards change management. For a leader, strategic communication is the key to effective change management.

The above excerpt is taken from the book, ‘How to communicate strategically in corporate world’. Click here to buy

About the Author

Dr. Mahul Brahma

Dr. Mahul Brahma is an author, chief editor, TEDx Speaker, professor, dean, columnist, luxury commentator, and the creator of The Luxe Trilogy, which comprises 'Decoding Luxe', 'Dark Luxe' and 'Luxe Inferno'. He has authored 'The Mythic Value of Luxury', 'How to Communicate Strategically in the Corporate World' and 'Quarantined: Love in the time of Corona'. He is a Professor of Crisis Communications and Dean - School of Media and Communications at Adamas University. He is an award-winning CSR, communications and branding leader and was heading three verticals in a Tata group company. He has held senior editorial positions in leading national and international publications. He is an award-winning filmmaker, actor and painter. He holds a PhD in Economics, a DLitt in luxury and Communications and is an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, St Xavier’s College, SSSUTMS, MICA, and University of Cambridge Judge Business School.

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