Transformation Communications Program: Assumptions and Constraints

Posted by Linda Wilson

Feb 28, 2014 12:07:00 PM

This document presents a framework for approaching communications around a typical change initiative, and includes some ideas and recommendations to improve the effort and results.


At a basic level, the primary objectives for communications around a business project are to…

  • Create awareness/inform
  • Create understanding
  • Influence (gain acceptance; enlist support; engage actions/behaviors)

These are sequential outcomes. Unless the immediate situation is threatening to health and safety, we can’t just pour on the communication fuel for a few days and create spontaneous understanding and instant willingness to ‘jump on board.’ Generally, people need some period of time and multiple doses of communication from knowledgeable, influential people in order to…

  • Just see/hear it     Break though the message clutter
  • Consider it             Decide whether this makes sense
  • Question it            Translate the specific what/why/when/how/how much for ‘me/us’
  • Consensus it          Get peer group input/assurance
  • Just do it               Accept and comply


We strongly advocate that organizations should be able to expect ‘reasonable compliance’ from employees on requests for how their company work is performed. When procedures change or when new automation tools or equipment are introduced, managers should not have to handhold, gently cajole and endlessly persuade people to do the work the company pays them for doing in a different (and ultimately improved) way.

For their part, employees should be able to expect from their organization ‘reasonable compliance’ in the form of fair warning. They should receive accurate and timely information, be able to attend forums for discussions, demonstrations, and presentations; get timely and thorough training on any new work tools and skills required to use the tools competently; and feedback on individual and business performance. The most basic mechanism for feedback is the company’s evaluation and compensation program.


In designing a communication program for an initial transformation rollout, we focus on high touch, interactive techniques and media, using high tech where it makes sense. E-mail is an over-used medium and ineffective in accomplishing any of the three objectives (awareness, understanding, influence); however, e-mail does work well for follow ups and quick updates. Other high tech that can work…

  • Program portal, ebulletin board or website that gives general project information, important dates and links to documents in an e-Library project related documentation and communication products (but this only works if people can be persuaded to visit)
  • Virtual meetings (WebEx, Go-to-Meeting) and podcasts, which utilize a visual medium and enable high interaction among participants
  • Tester/user blog to ask questions, exchange comments and express any frustrations as well as approvals about the new tools/system


Depending on company culture and workplace policies, social media could be utilized as part of project communications – within project work teams and to reach and interact with user populations. Project managers and teams work in collaborative environments where discussion around tasks, status and results are important. Efficient, effective interaction with users is equally important. Social media encourages natural, regular conversation and the platforms are generally not hard to set up or use.

These tools include but are not limited to…


Provides a sense of community for sharing anecdotal experience beyond project tasks and activities


Facebook’s sibling in the corporate world; has the advantage of limiting users to the company


Can be a good productivity tool for quick messages that supplement project status reports


Can serve as team’s shared notebook, with learnings growing over time and available to all


People tend to pay more attention to video vs. text; video creates more of a personal connection which is beneficial for distributed teams/offices

Caveats: Control and caution are critical when using social media. “Socializing” key project information (e.g., vision, business case, major milestones) is fundamental to effective communication. Too much “social” devolves into unstructured, off-task commentaries. There’s a big difference between quality communication that is productive and meaningful and the sheer quantity of disparate conversations and data streams that just generate extra noise. Like all other media, these platforms require thoughtful use, monitoring for effectiveness and content management. It is also critical to set privacy and protections appropriately.


 Generally, here’s where most projects start…

  • Beyond people working on, providing expert input to, or sponsoring and financing the project, knowledge of the project is normally limited. We would assume that companywide communication will come after project kickoff
  • If the company has any negative experience with past initiatives in the functional or process areas covered by the transformation, there will likely be some degree of sensitivity and residual fallout around a change in tools. In our experience, it’s best to acknowledge the disappointment and move on.
  • Expect time to be short and much of the initial message will have to get out quickly before visible aspects of the project catches the workforce’s attention driving false messages and unattainable expectations

Following is a list of other assumptions and constraints that could impact the execution and success of the communication program. We have provided some suggestions to help mitigate risks to a successful rollout

Assumptions & Constraints



Short timeframe for moving groups of users from awareness to competency

Declare the moment: Launch official transition from plan/design to build/implementation and set expectations with a multimedia message from the sponsors or sponsorship group. (If not among the sponsors, CIO and CFO could be included for additional impact.)

Underlying: This is not a request or an apology; it is a moving forward announcement.


Identify and engage one ‘spokesperson’ from each division/business unit that has the respect and power to get people’s attention. These spokespersons will be the ‘communicators and translators’ for key change management and messaging activities to and from the business units.  These people are commonly called “Change Champions” or Business Unit Change Leaders (BUCLS)”

These are your ‘go to’ people for key message delivery.

Clear accountability / responsibility for implementing the plan

Formally designate a person/small team who will be accountable for developing and implementing the Communication Plan. If outside consultants are used, let them focus on planning, creative development and support as agreed, but only internal resource(s) can push the button … or pull the plug.

This issue applies to Change Management as well…and coordinating the two plans. This is close to FT work on a project of transformative scope.

Expediting the process:

•  Message development cannot be done by committee – the process needs to be simple
•  Message approval process needs to be efficient

For products/events on the Communications plan, the designated person or team whether internal or consultant will produce drafts/guidelines and required iterations for approval by an individual (if solo author) or small group (e.g., integrated team)

  • Messaging to senior levels will go through a more extensive review and approval process.
  • BUCLs will work from approved slide decks and communication products, and will ‘translate’ information as needed for their business units.
  • A branded project template will be useful to identify program and project communication.

The development and approval process is an issue that can really derail a communications effort (and be used to undermine it).

An 80% plan, message or event is better than reviewed-to-minutiae, 100% agreement that misses the opportunities.

Face-to-face exchanges provide richer communication outcomes


Compile a list of regular business meetings attended by key stakeholders; piggyback for P2P awareness building, status update and issue resolution communications.

Your standing meetings list is very helpful.

Minimal new meetings are created for the initiative communication and change management

Whenever possible, lead in or follow up e-mails with ‘5 minute update’ or ‘5 answers in 5 minutes’ in regularly scheduled meetings attended by regular users of new systems … and their bosses.

Negotiate time with meeting owners; adhere to format.

As you approach User Acceptance Testing for new technology and move toward general rollout, the frequency and # of message products/events should grow exponentially

The BUCLs network is vital in this roll.

Trainers are also critical conduits for communication since they will be interacting with users in the period immediately preceding Go Live.

The BUCL network also provides key informal feedback for surfacing issues and shaping messages.

Last but not least … clarity and agreement on the policy regarding compliance with system use

This is equal parts policy, business case, change management and communications.

  • If people do not have to use the new systems/process, what are the alternative processes and how long will they continue?
  • Does this mean training is not required? Or will training cover all the ways people can execute after the transformation is complete?
  • What is the impact on the business from having multiple processes both internal and external impacts?

If compliance is not required in units where the tools or process have been rolled out, what is the longer-term goal for the enterprise? If there is a transition period, it is important to be very clear about the timeline and longer-term goals … and to have business leaders’ agreement.



Topics: Communications, Organization Change Management

For More Information or to Schedule a Private Discussion Click Here