How project frameworks and communication plans help drive positive change results for businesses.
Who Moved my Cheese?
A business associate and friend, Debbie Atkins, recently sent me ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ by Dr Spencer Johnson, which many will remember being the ‘go to’ business book around 20 years ago. For those who have not read it, this short story is about four characters and their handling of change as they search a maze for new supplies of cheese. It’s a simple parable, but the story is just as relevant if not more so in the current climate and well worth a read.
The book’s arrival coincided with my first visit to the Proms for two years. It was very exciting to be back in the Albert Hall, but once seated I realised the environment was subtly different to pre-2020. The platform had been extended so all string players could sit individually resulting in a reduced Arena space, the coin collection at the end of the evening had been replaced by online donations and the traditional shout out for the collection didn’t happen. The changes were understandable given the circumstances, but I wonder how many online donations were missed through the lack of communication about the changes at the start of the evening.
Change can sneak up without warning so planning and anticipating are important. Not everything can be anticipated it’s true, but proactively planning (as the Cheese story demonstrates) helps manage and control change. The impending change may be obvious to those involved but to the wider business and clients it can be an unwelcome surprise. Whether it’s integrating companies, replacing technology or improving processes, communicating to stakeholders and those affected from the start pays dividends later on with acceptance and adoption, particularly with those who are reluctant to change. There is nothing more challenging than implementing new technology and processes to find there is little take-up, even with insistence by Management.
Communications plans are a great asset for any project to help with the wider change journey and should be included at outset. For instance, training is usually towards the end of a project but is critical to the project success and relies on people being engaged in the process. Early and ongoing project communication minimises the surprise when people are asked to attend the training and they are more ready to engage. Running projects over the past 20 years I’ve found ongoing communication often prompts additional people asking to be involved in the training and which is an even better outcome.
This approach also works well in office moves. I’ve worked closely with dedicated consultants on previous moves who liaise with the affected teams to identify and manage their biggest concerns such as travel changes and the look and feel of the new office. It’s a great result when you see someone who has been dreading a major work change enthusing about it to colleagues and see how quickly people adapt once the move has happened. Likewise, on a more recent project to streamline processes to benefit the customer, early and ongoing communication strengthened the adoption of the final solution and helped managed any concerns early on in the process.
Communication plans are even featured in the latest FCA Operational Resilience rules which come into force from March 2022. This is an output of the project which requires enhanced SM&CR firms to create a communication plan should an identified key business process fail. Once created the plan will need to be reviewed and updated regularly in preparation for any emergency.
Significant change can be a challenge for any business and project frameworks are a great way to help you to structure, plan and control both the change and communication for everyone affected. This in turn helps your employees and clients adapt more quickly increasing the implementation success.
Helen structures and runs tailored operational projects for firms to support growing and changing businesses, freeing up people to do what they do best. For more information please contact [email protected].