One of the most powerful attributes of professional communication is redundant in change management communication. As such, the strategic power of this (internal) form of public relations is profoundly underutilised when it comes to the challenging change management process.
Two-way symmetrical communication is the professional communication (aka public relations) attribute to which I refer. It is an approach which identifies and/or anticipates, then provides, feedback from the target audience to the service, product or issue (in this case, the product/issue is change) decision makers.
This feedback prompts the decision makers (in this case the organisation’s executive and their advisors) to modify the product so it is more likely to be bought (or bought into) by the target audience.
If you find this post of value, please share it through LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Google+ et al!
This process, clearly, is likely to entail compromise from those wanting the sell the product, but it will also enable a higher degree of buy-in and, hence, success in embedding the change so it becomes business as usual.
By the time the change product has been given to the professional communicator, there is generally little chance of it being adjusted based on target audience feedback. So the role of the professional communicator becomes one of a spruiker and issues management consultant:
- On one hand the positive attributes of the change, the WIIFM* factor and the benefits to the organisation are sold
- On the other, potential barriers to change and weaknesses in the change product (as determined by those the change will impact on) are identified and communication approaches are put into place to mitigate their negative impact on the change and, more broadly, on organisational culture itself.
Strategic thinking in change management
In saying the professional power of professional communication is being radically under-utilised in change, however, there are two factors to bear in mind:
- Before the change product is handed to the communicator to work his or her magic on, it has been thoroughly scoped out by the business
- The issues management dimension of the change, the nature of the communication itself and the way in which it is integrated into the entire change process (e.g. awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, reinforcement – or ADKAR) makes the contribution of communication – if it chooses to exercise the opportunity, of course – immensely strategic.
No organisation is simply going to implement change without investing a great deal of thought into the process. It is being implemented for the long-term benefit of the organisation.
One of the key factors business analysts/management consultants/organisational leadership will consider is how will the change become embedded into the business? And part of that is addressing the questions of how will those the change is impacting upon receive the change and how will the business evolve due to this change?
One can only hope this is the case, anyway.
So there is an argument that professional communicators shouldn’t get too uppity about being simply handed the change product; the two-way symmetrical communication dimension may have already been embedded into the change product development process.
Challenging orthodoxies to improve outcomes
One of the most useful characteristics of the strategic professional communicator, however, is their ability to challenge presumed thinking (groupthink) and, metaphorically speaking, call out the emperor’s new clothes. This is not done out of ego and wilful negativity, it is undertaken to add rigour to the business and communication process.
No discipline has the capability to understand target audiences and predict their reaction to the promulgation of a product or service, especially if it is an issues-laden one, better then a public relations professional. An organisation which chooses to ignore and/or underutilise this capability is doing itself no favours at all and, in fact, is not taking the soundest possible approach to risk management.
Do you think the professional power of public relations is effectively utilised in the change management process? Where and how can public relations be best utilised in change? Is two-way symmetrical communication irrelevant to change management? Do you have faith the best possible change ‘product’ will always be handed to the change team (including communication) before it is asked to embed the change into business as usual?
If you found this post of value, please share it through LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Google+ et al!
* WIIFM – what’s in it for me