Monday, October 10, 2005

Tick the box

There's a real downside in getting involved in change projects - and that's 'tick the box' communication. Several times in the last couple of years I've been asked to get involved in a project only to find that it had been running for months without any 'communication' because they hadn't got anyone to fill the role.

Of course, what they've meant is that formal communication hasn't taken place. Largely, there has been a massive fanfare at the beginning announcing transformation; a couple of set-up e-zines detailing the project team....and then a big fat nothing.

But that has been a very pregnant big fat nothing. Every meeting the project team has had with people in the business has communicated - and without a consistent story at the core, the communication has been skewed depending on who has been in the meeting. Every week that has gone by without any framework for communication has led to radio silence from the centre - and a hubbub of half truths and mis-communication out in the business.

Where the real trick has been missed is in project team members waiting for a communicator to come in and fill the void.

It's daft really, as the first thing I establish when I get involved is that I'm not going to be the voice of the project. Every project team member - from executive sponsor to the most part-time member has a voice they can use to help the change process.

What I can do is assess stakeholders and their needs; work with the team to build a consistent story based on objectives, context, fit with the business, dovetailing with business as usual, reasons for change, milestones, success factors and the like and can put some formal tools at their disposal to enable understanding and involvement. I can work with leaders to shape their role as communicators - I can take the horses to water......but I can't make them walk on it.

Somehow there's an expectation that when the comms person gets 'on-boarded' (now isn't that a horrible expression!), everyone can blow out their cheeks, relax and get on with their role - the box has been ticked and comms will miraculously happen. But that misses the point - the comms role enables others to step up to the mark. It doesn't do all the doing - that way spin and disaster lies.

Actually, even without a formal communicator on board, most change projects can establish and live by some excellent rules of good communication - so much of it is sense. It's just a shame that sense doesn't appear to be common.

No comments: