24 Jul 2016
How do I announce change?
by Melanie Franklin
I am part of a team announcing significant organisational team to employees who have been taken by surprise. The change has not been driven by a shift in strategic objectives, which would have led to an awareness that change was on the horizon. Instead this change has been driven by a high number of issues, each not that significant and so easy to miss. However, taken together they add up to the need to make significant change in the way the company operates.
My lesson learned from this experience so far is that change is subject to change.
We have crafted considered announcements about the change, explaining the rationale and setting out what will and will not change.
What has been interesting is the reaction to statements about what will not change. Instead of giving staff the comfort that we expected we have been surprised by their willingness to widen the scope of the change.
As part of the staff coming to terms with the impact of the change there has been discussion about what we thought were the constants that would happen however the company is organised.
This has taught me to describe things that will not change as ‘processes expected to be out of scope’ rather than definitely out of scope.
This encourages the staff to keep talking, to keep sharing their ideas and to help cover-create the change so that it becomes their change and not something imposed on them by senior management.
This has taken a willingness on the part of the senior management team to accept that their original announcement of the change was a starting point and not a definitive statement. I think this has taken a degree of humility and a willingness for senior managers to live with uncertainty. This is in contrast to the preceding months when every conversation behind closed doors has been about designing the change and becoming certain.
Prepare for constant change
It is a reminder that your first design of the change is only stable until you show it to your first wave of stakeholders, in this case the employees. It also tells me we need to be prepared for even more change when the amended change is presented to the second wave of stakeholders i.e. Customers and suppliers.
So if you are involved in change, be prepared to change your understanding of the change as events unfold.