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Huddle Recap: Intersection of Communications & Change Management

On Tuesday, March 10, Pivot hosted the second Huddle focused on the intersection of communications and change management with more than 40 change and communications practitioners in attendance. The Huddle featured panelists John Farrell, change management lead at Medtronic; Jody Foege, organizational change manager at Pivot; Brandy Doyle, VP of communications at Optum; and Cecilia Mische, head of communications for North America and global Urology at Coloplast.

Stacia Nelson, founder and CEO of Pivot Strategies, moderated the panel by asking a series of questions. In case you missed it, we’ve summarized some of the key points shared by our panelists and attendees.

We all know change is constant. How do you deal with change fatigue in your organization and for yourself, personally?

  • Change happens one person at a time. And, during a change, that person needs to complete the new task/process 21 times before they’re competent and remember it. If you think about that, you begin to appreciate how hard it is to reconfigure peoples’ jobs.

  • Change is usually seen as a takeaway. Know when to leave people alone to ensure you’re not killing the morale.

  • Share any feedback you receive with leaders.

  • Think about packaging the changes into a larger campaign and tie it back to the strategy. Make the change digestible for yourself and the organization. Find out what other changes are taking place by asking people what else they are working on, or conducting an environmental scan or a survey. If you have an overarching project management office, review all changes taking place and timeframe for your stakeholder groups (e.g., process, technology, benefits, etc.).

  • Use employees as spokespeople for the change to add credibility (e.g., changing to a high deductible health plan).

  • As far as dealing with change on a personal level, the panelists suggested prioritizing yourself over the organization. They admitted this can be difficult to do, but you will not be useful to the organization if you are experiencing burnout.

How do you know when a project needs a change practitioner, a communications practitioner or both?

  • The panel agreed it depends on the scope of the project/change. Conduct a change magnitude assessment to understand how large and far reaching the change is.

  • Most said you need a change practitioner when a behavioral shift is the goal or potential impact to morale and a communicator is needed on most change projects, but is especially important when it will impact customers or more than one business unit. The panel also discussed the difference between corporate communicators, who focus on high level messages and are often spread out or managing a channel, and change communicators, who are often dedicated resources on a project. Change communicators are key to get your messages out to your audience and also bridge the gap between corporate communicators and the project team.

Do you conduct change training or discussions with leaders or managers?

    • The panel agreed that it’s difficult to get people to attend a training, but stressed the importance of equipping managers with the tools needed to be successful (talking points, FAQs, etc.).

      • Tell the truth. To build trust, don’t downplay the change. Admit that it will be tough at first. Tell them when it will begin to be less tough and when you can expect it to get better.

      • Explain to employees what they’re not going to like, what they will like now and what they will like in the future.

      • Provide leaders with specific, detailed bullet points to thank the team along the way for their contributions to the project.

    • Some conduct 1-1 coaching on effective communications with senior leaders.

How do you know if your team or business is ready for the change?

    • At the beginning of the project, ask leaders and employees: “what will it take to get ready?”

Asking that question and giving them time to talk, helps uncover how people are doing things. It’s also important to coach them to think outside of the hard deliverables.

    • Use the stakeholder assessment and be clear on who has little impact versus a big impact.

    • Collect and rely on the data. Ask employees key questions such as:

      • I’m optimistic about the direction of the company

      • What is one thing you would change about the town hall/meeting?

      • I have confidence in senior leadership

We hope you find these tips as valuable as we did. We can’t wait for the next Huddle to learn more from our fellow communicators.

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