Informed Stakeholders and Change Management
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Informed Stakeholders and Change Management

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Factors Common to Successful Change Management

Informed Stakeholders and Change Management

Communication Context

Fundamentally it is people who make change happen - nothing moves forward without engaged, motivated stakeholders.

An organization needs to engage its stakeholders, in order to implement changes effectively. To do that, stakeholders need to understand the reasons why the change is happening and its benefits. They also need to have an opportunity to express their views and contribute their own ideas about how it might be implemented.

Even if the change is non-negotiable, cooperation and collaboration to achieve the change is more likely if stakeholders are involved and kept informed. Experience shows that approaching change in an open and consultative manner assists in more effective implementation.

Stakeholders

Stakeholders are the people that are directly involved in and affected by the change project.

Typically they are the organization’s workforce or those whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the change including other agencies with whom the changing organization partners, service providers, vendors, or the public.

Communication Context (Continued)

Accordingly, it is important that everyone in the organization and those interacting with the organization, both internal and external stakeholders, are kept informed and provided with messages and information that allow them to feel engaged, thus paving the way for involvement and adoption.

The Purpose of Change Communication

One of the most challenging aspects of any change project is communication. Communication is the key way that people are engaged in the change.

Introducing successful change relies heavily on how the participants in the change view it. Poor change communication is a common cause of complaint and change research emphasizes that change can be derailed if the communication plan is ineffective. It has also been said that “you cannot over-communicate when you are asking your organizations to change”.

When any kind of change is announced, people are hungry for information. In the absence of sufficient information, change can be stalled. People will continue to work as they have done in the past; or rather than risk doing the ‘wrong’ thing, they do nothing.

Note

Effective communication is designed to create awareness and understanding in order to get subsequent supportive action.

The rationale is that if you want people to change, they need to invest in the changes you are asking them to make, and they are more likely to do that if they understand the benefits of the change.

The Purpose of Change Communication (Continued)

While not everyone has to be deeply committed to the vision for change to succeed, the majority of stakeholders must accept the need for change and commit to the direction that the organization is taking with it.

Effective communication engages the hearts and minds of all stakeholders by facilitating movement along the continuum presented below:

Awareness

Understanding

Acceptance

Commitment

Communication

The Purpose of Change Communication (Continued)

To achieve effective communication requires a deliberate plan for determining who needs to understand the what, why, when and how of the change.

The best time to map out what communication is required to ensure people understand, accept and positively contribute to the change is in the early planning stage for the change.

Good communication should never be an afterthought, but a significant part of the Change Plan. It should reflect the specific needs and complexity of the change and therefore may be formal or informal, highly detailed or broadly structured.

As with all other planning documents prepared at the start of the change, the communication plan should also be a live document and subject to regular review.

Understanding the Audience – Stakeholder Analysis

A stakeholder analysis is typically performed as a foundation for overall communications planning for change.

The larger and more disruptive the change, the more vital it becomes to assess different participants’ influence on the change.

People can resist change for a number of reasons: self-interest, denial, fear of the unknown or different perceptions. If you understand the root of possible resistance to change then you can often plan for it before it becomes a significant obstacle.

Stakeholder analysis is an important means of uncovering potential resistance or other risks to the success of the change.

Stakeholder Analysis

A stakeholder analysis is a useful way to achieve the following:

Determine specific stakeholders or stakeholder groups, and their relationship to the change.
Identify their current attitudes toward the change and level of influence.
Identify their communication needs, and any risks associated with not meeting their needs.
Determine the general means for delivering change messages that will meet the needs, as well as appropriate timing.

Understanding the Audience – Stakeholder Analysis (Continued)

By understanding the attitudes and feelings towards the change effort, the change team will be able to define the appropriate communication for each audience.

Without a stakeholder analysis and evaluation of the risk involved, the change team risks communicating inappropriately, resulting in stakeholder conflicts and uncertainty.

Without understanding their motivations, needs and expectations, it is difficult to move a ’change blocker‘ out of that category and they will continue to be confrontational and cause conflict throughout the change.

Change Communication Fundamentals

While there is no one perfect way to communicate change, and each organization should plan and determine the approach that best suits its culture and style, the following elements are common to successful communication approaches:

Communicate the change vision and do it early

By clearly communicating the change vision for how the organization will look and feel at the end of the change, the foundation for the change is established. The vision should be clear, compelling, able to be described in simple terms and capable of acting as a guide for change decisions and outcomes.

The earlier in the change process that the end goal is communicated, the easier it will be for people to adapt. People may work at cross purposes if they are unaware that they are pursuing dissimilar goals.

Outline the benefits and impacts of the change

Communication is important to overcome the fears and concerns aroused by change, to explain why the change is happening and what the whole thing really means in the long run. People wonder what effect it will have on them - will they still have a job after the change, will they maintain their position, will they have an interesting role, what will their future be?

Because these questions will always be asked, and uncertainty in a working environment reduces productivity, it's important to communicate what is changing and why. This is the crux of the message for many. Stakeholders need to know who will be affected and how, why it is happening and what the timelines for the change are.

Ensure organization’s leaders communicate throughout the change process

The message from an organization’s leaders need not just be about the progress of the change - important as that is - it is more about showing that the organization and its leaders remain committed to the change. The personal and visible involvement of the organization’s leaders in communicating the change, sends a powerful message to stakeholders about how serious the organization is in implementing the change.

This is not something that should be delegated. Active and visible management commitment gives credibility to communications, demonstrates management’s ownership to doing business in a different way and encourages a greater degree of stakeholder acceptance.

Change Communication Fundamentals (Continued)

Further elements that are common to successful communication include:

Use multiple channels to communicate the change message:
Some people are visual learners best approached with written material. Others do better by listening and responding to the spoken word.

Provide opportunities for dialogue:
Providing opportunities to discuss and directly respond to stakeholders helps to promote a sense of ownership and tells stakeholders that their opinions are important and their comments and suggestions are valued.

Repeat change messages often:
Once the case for change is communicated and it is clear that change is going to happen, regular communication is a priority. Repetition of clear and compelling change messages via multiple channels greatly increases the probability that it will get through to those who need to hear it.

END of UNIT

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