It always amuses me when I walk into a project to assist with their change management and they are perplexed by the lack of stakeholder engagement because they’ve been communicating—they have a project newsletter and FAQs on their project intranet site!
A project newsletter is a great start
But it’s rarely the answer. Communication is only one aspect of managing change effectively. A newsletter is one communication tactic that will help along the journey but it’s not the sole answer.
Technically speaking in a project context, change management is the overarching discipline with engagement, communication and training sitting as supporting subspecialties.
‘Change management’ is about looking at who is involved in the project, what impact does the project potentially have on them and what influence do they have on the project delivery and ultimately successful outcomes. Being able to unpack who’s who, their motivations, behaviours and potential areas of resistance is a critical analysis step before broader communication and engagement can be truly effective. It’s about developing a road map of what, how and when things need to happen to transition to the new way of doing things.
Communication is about understanding the language of the organisation and how they get their information both formally and informally. Understanding informal networks operate can be an absolute ace up your sleeve – particularly when you are working against the clock or getting in front of certain groups is a challenge.
Engagement is the act of bringing it all together. It’s about the right message, at the right time, to the right audience using the right mechanism.
Sounds simple, right?
Effective change management is complex, not complicated. The steps are simple enough.
- Identify your stakeholders and evaluate the project impact and their influence.
- Investigate how the stakeholder receive their information – formally and informally.
- Develop communication materials to engage with your stakeholders. Be creative! And use the language of the organisation!
- Engage, measure and refine. Go back to step 3.
Two key steps that are often missed is ‘measure’ and ‘refine’. Measuring face-to-face engagement can be tricky and does require good observation (profiling skills also helps!). However, the technology we can leverage in change communication has evolved so much over the last decade. While internal communications is still often the poor cousin to customer marketing, it doesn’t mean that we can leverage the tools and techniques to more effectively engage with our internal customers.
It’s about getting a little creative
Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries and challenge the communication channels in the organisation. Doing something different and a bit out there will grab stakeholders’ attention. It’s then the quality of the message that will maintain their interest.
Here’s a few ideas
- Creating a visual identity around a project is a great way to break through the organisational communication noise. Consistent use of the visual identity across project documentation and communications will train people to keep an eye out for what’s happening.
- Look at incorporating video into your communication mix. I’m not talking about stuffy formal videos with scripts that look stilted and mono-toned. I’m talking about videos that come across real and authentic, almost spur of the moment. It should be all about the ‘action behind the scenes’ in the project videos that are full of energy by your change champions, key project team members, your project sponsors, people participating in workshops. It’s amazing how it can start to shift perception of just another IT project to a project of the people.
- Have a think about social media ‘click bate’ tactics that you could leverage in your comms planning. Creative news article headings and email subject lines increase the likelihood of people engaging with your content.
- Personal your email broadcasts – there are a tonne of free and paid services that allow you to create really funky newsletters that you can personalise with names and other details that you include in the database. You can also create more corporate style templates that look like they’ve been sent through Outlook. Using email marketing tools also means that you can track conversion rates (how many people open the email, how many people have clicked on what links). If you want to get really into you can split test to see what type of things get a higher response rate.
- Ask for feedback!!! Pulse surveys are an important tool to measure your business readiness and it’s also a great way to throw in a few questions about how your stakeholders feel about your engagement plan. People love to give an opinion.
What type of things do you use in your stakeholder engagement?
Over the last decade Lesleigh Ross has been leading project and change teams in complex delivery environments and transformation projects across public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Leigh is highly skilled in industry best practice methodologies and frameworks which is demonstrated through her ability to deliver quality business outcomes across ‘green fields’ and recovery projects and programmes.
As a ‘digital native’ Leigh believes delivering innovation in business is only possible through collaborative project design where the business and technical teams work hand in hand. A geek in her own right Leigh is able to “degeek the geek” and facilitate effective engagement through all stages of project delivery.
Leigh is the current Queensland Lead for the Change Management Institute and a proud member of the Australian Institute of Project Management and the International Centre of Complex Project Management. She is active in her local chapters and national interest groups which are focused on improving the professionalism, diversity and inclusion within the project management community.