Anatomy of change management
Part 2: The human factor

august 12, 2018

"In life, change is inevitable. In business, change is vital."
~ Warren G. Bennis

Below is the second in a two-part series on implementing successful change management. Click here to read Part 1: Let's get technical.

Anyone who has led or been part of a significant technology project knows that the success is tied to a strong combination of technical expertise and effective communication. Humans are creatures of habit, and we often have difficulty incorporating new changes. This resistance to change can range from subtle, passive-aggressive avoidance all the way to outright hostility and sabotage. Effective communication is critical to managing the human factor in the change management process.

Components for Effective Communication

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."
~ George Bernard Shaw

Effective communication for change management requires four interwoven components:

  1. The individual sending the message must present the message clearly, with sufficient detail, and with honesty.
  2. The person receiving the message must decide to actively listen, ask questions for clarity, and trust the sender of the message.
  3. The delivery method chosen must suit the circumstances and the needs of both the sender and the receiver.
  4. The content of the message must resonate and connect, on some level, with the already-held beliefs of the receiver. It must contain the information that the stakeholder wants and needs to hear.

Developing a Written Change Management Communication Plan

"Overcommunicate. It's better to tell someone something they already know than to not tell them something they needed to hear."
~ Alex Irvine

Developing a written communication plan as part of a technology project is essential during the change management process.

  • Communicate consistently, frequently, and through multiple channels, including:
    • speaking
    • writing
    • video
    • training
    • focus groups
    • bulletin boards
    • Intranets
    • and other project communication outlets
  • Communicate all that is known about the project status on a consistent schedule and as quickly as the information is available on any major changes to the project schedule.
  • Clearly communicate the vision, the mission, and the objectives of the project. Help people to understand how these changes will affect them and their workflows (if you don't help with this process, people will make up their own stories).
  • Recognize that true communication is a conversation. It is two-way, and real discussion must result. It cannot be just a presentation.
  • The project leaders or sponsors need to spend time conversing one-on-one or in small groups with the people who are expected to make the changes.
  • Use training as a form of interactive communication and as an opportunity for people to engage with the new technology and processes.

Finally, make sure to have considered the respective comfort level based on generational differences of adopting both change in general and technology adoption. A little empathy goes a long way in fostering effective communication during the change management process.

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