The reality: Communication actually begins when the change management begins.
The usual approach is to launch the "communication step" after many events have happened: senior executives have identified the need, change teams have engaged sponsors and project teams have started to recruit resources. Each of these activities, however, should be considered communication events and managed as part of the overall plan.
As soon as the need is identified and the change team formed, the communication process needs to begin. Here is an outline of what to do:

  • Assess the situation. Change teams often conduct an analysis (commonly called a stakeholder analysis) of impacted employees and what's changing for them. Use this information to define and segment the target audiences for communication. If a stakeholder analysis isn't available, create your own profile by defining key groups, what will change for them and when. Then conduct research to understand employees' perceptions of change.
  • Articulate the story. Change teams often develop project plans, including the business case, vision and objectives. Leverage this material to create key messages for impacted groups, as well as all employees, by asking yourself the following questions: What's the most important thing each group needs to know or do? How will the outcome benefit my audience?
  • Align leaders and business partners. When the need to change is identified, key contributors need to be aligned with the plan. For example, leaders need to agree on the solution and ensure resources are assigned. Communicators can facilitate that process by working with the leadership team to create a shared vision of the change and define communication roles. Business partners, such as IT or HR, also need to be taken on the journey to prepare them for their role.