The 3 Levels of Communication in Managing Change

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Communication plays an important role during each phase of a change management initiative, and it is often the culprit when issues start to arise.  I recently participated in change management weekly meetings where the change agent was providing updates to his team members. Each week the change agent had an agenda planned for what they needed to discuss, and for three weeks in a row the conversation always became focused on one issue that no one could agree on.

The frustration felt by both sides was growing during each meeting, and little progress was being made.  After sitting down with the change agent to get a better understanding of what was going on, it became clear that the wrong audience was debating the issue.  The team didn’t understand that they were getting caught up in details that had been determined by another audience because the change agent was communicating with them with too much detail, as opposed to highlighting the key points. This created a lot of lost time with an issue that could have been avoided. 

To avoid the confusion of ineffective communication and the frustration of wasted meetings in your own organization, you can use the following guidelines.  Organizing your audiences based on these guidelines makes it easier to determine which messages should be communicated to each group.

  1. Project Sponsors & Organization Leadership. This stakeholder group is responsible for the business results of the change.  This group needs to be kept in the loop with updates on the overall project and status, and they need to know what is needed from them to make the project successful.  Make requests from these leaders to show their support for the change by speaking at the initiative kickoff, or requesting that metrics are updated to support the sustained success of the change.
  1. Change Support Teams. Frequent communication within your change and support teams is essential.  Learn who else is involved in the change, and what decisions and updates are important for them.  Whenever key decisions need to be made it is your responsibility to make sure that the right stakeholders are involved in making these decisions and affected stakeholders are made aware of decisions that impact them.
  1. Change Recipients. While the previous two groups are responsible for supporting the change, the change recipients are those who actually live out the change, bringing its vision to life through their daily work.  This group should be the primary focus of your communication plan.  Change recipients typically require the most communication of any group.  They need varying levels of communication, based on the impact of the change such as its purpose and details, what they can expect, and how they will be supported.

The 3 Levels of Communication in Managing Change -Template

To prepare for his meeting the fourth week, the change agent thought through the key points his support team needed to hear, and how to effectively present them.  This time the conversation didn’t get off topic, and everyone left the meeting with a clear understanding of what the change agent had been trying to communicate. The confusion created by the change agent week after week would have been completely avoidable if he had thought more carefully through the needs and interests of the audience he was meeting with.

Now it’s your turn.  Avoid making the same oversights, and capture the needs and interests of each of your audiences using the 3 Levels of Communication in Managing Change downloadable template.

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