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Your Communications Plan is not a Change Plan

Successfully implementing lasting change requires a plan. This is where organizational change management comes into play.

It is not uncommon for organizations to build out a robust communication plan to support change within. Unfortunately, this is where many organizations stop. While communication is a solid foundation upon which a change plan can be built, communications plans are not a substitute for a robust, long-term change plan.

Successful change is dependent on a number of factors. Prosci, a global change management organization, uses the acronym ADKAR to outline phases of change. Simply put, ADKAR states that successful change plans require Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement.

A communication plan is often part of a strong change management plan; it supports awareness, knowledge, and reinforcement. However, additional components of organizational change are necessary to facilitate desire and ability.

In addition to a communication plan, a comprehensive change plan will also consist of:

  • Sponsor Roadmap

  • Training Plan

  • Coaching Plan

  • Reinforcement/Sustainability Plan

Sponsors are typically executive-level leaders and are critical to the success of a project. A sponsor’s primary role is to spread awareness and build support for the project across the organization. A communication plan provides sponsors with talking points and highlights on the project to share across the organization. Sometimes the communication plan will also provide messaging for sponsors to relay to end-users and other stakeholders directly impacted by the change.

The meat of a successful change plan lies in the training, coaching, and reinforcement/sustainability plans. These plans are equally important and serve different functions to support awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement. Depending on the organization, its capacity for change, and its level of risk adversity, each of these plans could have varying emphasis.

Training plans are used to teach new skills end-users will require to work effectively in a new environment. The most effective training plans take stock of an organization’s current state and identify the gaps that need to be addressed to obtain the desired future state. The change plan will incorporate tasks that allow for this discovery to occur, such as change impact analysis and process documentation.

In addition to a training plan, many change plans incorporate a coaching plan. Unlike a training plan, a coaching plan is not intended to teach end-users the skills necessary to complete their jobs. Instead, a coaching plan is built to provide support to stakeholders at all levels of the change. This plan often has interventions in place to help manage resistance stakeholders may be feeling throughout the change process. Interventions could look like question and answer sessions, demonstrations of the new tool or process being implemented, or other activities that allow stakeholders a look at what they’re working toward.

Finally, a comprehensive change plan will always have a reinforcement or sustainability plan. Adoption of any change is the most critical piece of change. A reinforcement/sustainability plan builds in tools to continue adoption efforts past the implementation of a change. There are a number of ways in which an organization can facilitate sustainability. Some of these options include continued communication – sharing success stories and wins of the change, rewards and recognition programs to acknowledge those who are successfully adopting the change, and metrics reporting that illustrate how the change is contributing positively to the organization.

It is clear that communication is an important piece of successful change within an organization. However, lasting change must be supported by more than a communication plan. Communication is a solid foundation upon which a comprehensive change plan can be built. By incorporating a sponsor road map, a robust training plan, coaching, and a plan for reinforcement and sustainability, organizations will see change adoption occur more readily.

About the Author

Pivot Strategies

Pivot Strategies is an innovative communications agency with a relentless passion for the power of strategic employee communications and smart change management to transform your organization from the inside out.

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