A recent strategy session with a client turned up a provocative question: “How do I short circuit the change communication process?” Our client had just learned about a significant organizational change and communication needed to start yesterday. But without an in-house change management team, she knew some planning was required. 

While the gold standard for change communication may be a thoughtful planning process that considers the input of stakeholders and defines communication roles, sometimes you need to put your facilitator hat on and collect details—quickly.

Gather your experts—colleagues who play a role in shaping the change—in a room and don’t open the door until the team has completed two steps:

1. Segment employees and map impact 

Collaborate with your colleagues to divide employees into groups based on role, location or function/department. For example, you may have people managers and HR representatives. Try this simple segmentation exercise.

Then map these groups based on the impact of the change: from little/no impact to deep involvement. The greater the impact, the harder communication will need to work to make the change stick. That means an email won’t be sufficient, you’ll need tactics that encourage interaction, such as Q&A with a senior leader or in-person workshops.

2. Brainstorm questions

Identifying questions is an efficient way to uncover the details of a change. Work with your colleagues to imagine the toughest questions employees will ask and collaborate on responses. If you’re new to brainstorming questions, try these techniques. When you’re pressed for time, break into teams and identify a topic (an aspect of the change) for each team to explore.

You’ll find this exercise is also a helpful way to identify gaps: details the experts haven’t considered or have yet to figure out.  

Now you’re ready to create communication materials. The segmenting exercise (Step 1) will help you choose communication tactics: a mix of tools that generate awareness (for example, email or a postcard) and those that build knowledge (for example, in-person training or a how-to manual). And the answers to your questions (Step 2) will help you create content.

Then it’s time to take a breath and assess your progress. A quick focus group (or two) or a short survey will help you determine if communication is breaking through and what to do next.

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