Change Management: How can people know about the change if they were never told?

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The communication is a cornerstone of the overall change process but it is often overlooked in project governance. A lack of communication or an absence of it is often reported as one of the main causes of project failures. Indeed, when project stakeholders do not communicate, collaborators tend to turn in on themselves, which will lead to a deterioration of the work environment and therefore has negative consequences on the smooth running of the project or its success.

Successful communication means clearly identifying the target audience. To this end, the project manager must put in place a clear and effective communication plan for the target (project stakeholders) and distinguish between each stakeholder to avoid confusion.

Communication is a cornerstone of the overall change process

Good and open communication between the various team members is key to maintain a regular and constructive dialogue with the project manager and thus to develop the confidence within the team. Only when team members feel confident and are kept informed of the progress of the project in real time, they will become more involved and more productive.

Various communication tools can be used by project managers and change managers. The project team will be less reluctant to change if it is well informed, indeed how can project stakeholders accept change if they are not kept informed? If we are properly informed, we will be even more involved and valued.

 ”My belief is that communication is the best way to create strong relationships.”
— Jada Pinkett Smith

Requirements of a good communication

Dialogue between collaborators: in other words we must promote an exchange of opinions and clear, detailed and constructive comments. The opinions of each other must be kept on a platform. A Small GroupResearch study has shown that this form of communication tends to increase team performance, motivation and satisfaction.

Team spirit (teambonding) : A team that gets along will speak more easily and will  therefore communicate more smoothly. Organising events, competitions that will strengthen the links of the team and motivate them for a common goal are other examples of teambonding.

Clarity of roles and responsibilities: If one of the project stakeholders does not know exactly what is expected of them, they will have issues performing their tasks and thus playing their part in the project in a correct way. By clarifying the roles and responsibilities of each member, one overcomes one of the first obstacles to improve your team communication. Using techniques such as the RACI matrix, the approval responsibility for each task is assigned to the most appropriate person, which helps to clarify the approach, expectations and behaviour of each stakeholder according to their role and position occupied.

Coffee breaks organisation: “Harvard Business Review report details research on improving communications through coffee breaks and results show how time spent on social activities can generate more than 50% positive change in communication ".

“Collaboration is important not just because it’s a better way to learn. The spirit of collaboration is penetrating every institution and all of our lives. So learning to collaborate is part of equipping yourself for effectiveness, problem solving, innovation and life-long learning in an ever-changing networked economy.”
— Don Tapscott

A so-called open-door policy in the physical sense as well as from a psychological point of view. Locking oneself behind a door creates an atmosphere of culture of secrecy. According to a Forbes article, by leaving the door of your office open or by encouraging a work environment with open spaces, you clearly communicate to your employees that you are all part of the same team. This gives to the team a message of transparency, a very important condition that strengthens trust and clarity in the workplace.

Promote online tools: According to a Mckinsey & Company report, an average employee spends more than a quarter of one’s day to check one’s inbox and 20% search for information to perform a specific task. This is a significant loss in productivity, so many companies are turning to cloud-based job management software. This type of software makes it possible to centralise all the projects in one place, allowing each member of the team to access the information quickly and easily. This eliminates the need to continuously exchange emails and also decreases the number of meetings. As a project manager, you can quickly see the status of the project through reports, keep abreast of any issues that arise, and monitor interaction and communication within the team. Your team can view reports with just one click, download the information they need, communicate directly with co-workers, and so on. This results in better communication, faster job growth, and increased productivity.

Training: To improve communication within a project team, we must never forget the virtues of training. Of course, attending a training session takes time, effort and money, but according to a study by Warkentin and Beranek, it are primarily teams that have received training in team communication that improve their ability to interact with colleagues.

Use appropriate means of communication: Each project should be treated separately. Communication exchanges need to reflect this to be more effective. If a specific task requires a more concrete method of communication, i.e. where team members sit at the same table, then do not hesitate to hold more meetings so that members communicate effectively.   In addition, your project may require meetings with colleagues at different sites where internal meetings will not be practical. In this case, technology takes on its full meaning here and video conferencing can be an effective way for the whole team to get together. Emails have long been one of the preferred methods of communication when working in a team, but the problem with emails is that they quickly invade your inbox that can quickly become full. So, this causes a delay in your work because you have to read these emails and move them in the appropriate folders. Not only is this an inefficient way of using your time, but if it is too important, you will tend to forget about it.

This is also not the most effective way to save important information, because you will have to delve into your emails, even if they have already been classified in specific folders. Task management software, on the other hand, facilitates online communication. Each task in a project is a subject of its own and can be viewed by all team members. Thus, all relevant information is kept in the same place, where it is easy to find them. With a task management software, communication becomes easy because the whole team has access to project tasks at any time. The advantage of online job management tools is that they are often free and connected to multiple devices if needed. We can mention an example from Google "   Google keeps   well adapted to the Agile method because its interface is formalized on post-its”. Or "   Wunderlist” recently acquired by Microsoft as one of the best free and online job management tools. So, effective communication does not cost that much!

Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.
— Brian Tracy

Crisis situation in project                                    

 Crisis dynamics: A crisis shakes and destabilizes a company. It experiences a general stress and her executives, even simple employees, often make uncoordinated and unprepared statements that amount to a cacophony, often resulting in serious and unacceptable contradictions. Confidence sometimes flares up in the company.

 The risks of silence: In the middle of a crisis, any company shows at first sight its vulnerability. A feeling of helplessness then pushes some leaders to go into deep silence to avoid aggravating the situation. This explicit or implicit subject dodging can then be misinterpreted and lead to the opposite effect:  frustrate all those who are interested.

The logic of information: Mastering information (internally and externally), especially in times of crisis, is important.

 Functions of communication in change management

In general, 3 functions are available for communication:

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Functions of communication in change management

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Regular meetings, reports and collaborative project management software are good foundations for maintaining good communication within the project team.

 Other tools may also be used such as the suggestion box or the scoreboard.

 Gantt chart

 To facilitate communication within the project team, the project manager can use a major asset such as the Gantt chart. This diagram was designed by Henry L. GANTT (in 1917) and is still the most used representation today. Its added value lies in the fact that it is visual and therefore facilitates the understanding of each stakeholder in the project. Because it is well known everything becomes simpler with images and even better with colour codes! The GANTT diagram is the technique and graphical representation to inform and locate in time the phases, activities, tasks and resources of the project.

We list the tasks and in columns the days, weeks or months online. The tasks are represented by bars of which length is proportional to the estimated duration. The tasks can follow one another or be carried out in parallel, entirely or partially. This diagram can also be used as a support during meetings and can be useful to alert management to additional resource needs that have been poorly budgeted at the start of the project.

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Conclusion

In view of what has been exposed, communication seems to be at the heart of change management. Project stakeholders will be less reluctant to change if they feel involved and therefore kept informed of the project's progress and its impact on their day-to-day work. Good communication takes time for the project manager, but in the long run the time will be spent on energy and productivity for employees.

About the author

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Fayza Boutuil combines a Master in financial management and 10 years of experience mainly in the banking and insurance sector. She had the chance to work on several projects whilst gaining in-depth expertise on specific topics during her years at Credendo and the Belgian National Bank. She developed her expertise in the processes & procedures development and improvement, project&governance and regulation . She acquired a strong knowledge of the insurance (non-Life), financial markets & Monetary Policy.

References

[1]  Herniaux G, « Gérer la communication du projet », Communication et organisation [En ligne], 13 | 1998, mis en ligne le 26 mars 2012, consulté le 15 octobre 2018. URLhttp://journals.openedition.org/communicationorganisation/2022 ; DOI : 10.4000/communicationorganisation.2022

[2]  Zinque N, « Gestion de projet: Les clés pour mener un projet avec succès » Broché, Coaching pro 016., 50Minutes.fr (27 janvier 2016),44p.

[3]  Autissier D., Moutot JM, La boîte à outils de la conduite du changement, 2013, Ed. Dunod, ISBN 978-2-10-059777-2

[4]  Maes J., Debois F., La boîte à outils du chef de projet, 2013, Ed. Dunod, ISBN 978-2-10-055527-7