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Context –> Behavior –> Mindset

When an organization goes through a phase of major change it impacts its functions which then impacts the way people behave in the newly to be shaped environment. In every organization, changes occur that affect the way in which people operate and the functions they carry out.

People’s needs in times of change are very different

These changes can have a significant impact on the emotions and can even be the cause of anxiety of teams and individuals. When stability used to be the normal state, a phase of change resembles instability and uncertainty. Some people thrive in times of change (but everyone has a change appetite), others crave for harmony and balance. It requires a skilled leader to recognize individual needs, combining them into team requirements and guide the team through the phase of change.

Typically, the period of scoping and preparation for these changes can take somewhere from a few weeks to a year. Such situations can be detrimental to team spirit and may ultimately affect team results due to the uncertainty. In the worst-case scenario, this may result in the loss of talent. One of the biggest challenges, however, is to ensure a transparent and continuous communication flow. As it is inevitable that there will be changes in leadership behaviors, decisions, and direction during this period, keeping it a secret from the individuals affected by the change is a major risk.

How to approach change in an organization?

Change management practices and leadership skills are crucial to put together an action plan for organizational change. There are several key steps to start the planning phase:

  • Understand who will be impacted by the change and how.

  • Anticipate the reaction and resistance of the teams impacted using a change-energy chart.

  • Find out the root causes of resistance and/or anxiety before the change and keep track of it during the process.

  • Assess the criticality of these teams to the organization's operations.

Communication is key – How to draft a change communication plan A good communication plan includes several levels:

  • Type of communication: meetings, 1:1s, posts in company intranet, external communication to customers and suppliers if affected by change.

  • Communication channels: based on the channels used by the people affected by the change, communication needs to be tailored to these channels.

  • Timing of communication: regular meetings, regular written communication, ad-hoc sessions, AMA (ask me anything) sessions with leadership board to keep in touch with people affected by the change.

  • Communication style: this must be in line with corporate guidelines and tailored to the audience. This means the style of communication has to be adjusted to the respective individuals or teams in target. These questions can be used as a guide:

  • Who is communicating?

  • What is the audience’s main problem/issue/fear?

  • When was the last time the target audience has heard/read something from me?

Bringing everything together, add time frames to the content and style of your communication plan. Consider these three main phases and break them down:

  • Before the change: Inform people of what is ahead of them. Once a change becomes common knowledge, be transparent and inform all people involved. Watch your communication style as mentioned above.

  • During the change: Keep everyone in the loop. It can’t be stressed enough: transparency is essential! People are more likely to endure difficult situations when informed beforehand. People want to feel prepared and in charge. Including clear milestones, updates on the change progress help to form a picture of what is still ahead.

  • After the change implementation: The change implementation stage is the beginning of the “refreezing” phase. Now leaders must show consistency and lead by example. The change is not over until the next one starts. Therefore, continuing the communication helps manifesting new behaviors and from a new mindset.

Context –> Behavior –> Mindset

Final Thoughts

When preparing the communications plan, all the knowledge about the impacted teams and their key concerns should be incorporated. Each group should have a separate communication plan with different communication channels. More attention should be given to the most impacted and critical teams for the organization.

It is important to include relevant people while the change is scoped and prepared to maintain important teams/employees in the organization and have their buy-in for the change implementation. There is a direct correlation between people's criticism of change and the amount of time they were involved in the process.


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