During Times of Major Change, Keep People Informed
Whenever the topic of managing change comes up, I’m reminded of an organization in which IT’s internal customers—the business departments—were kept in the dark about a significant technology upgrade that would directly affect them.
These employees were told nothing about the impact of the upgrade on their responsibilities, the training they’d receive to master the changes, and the support they’d have access to when problems or questions arose. Basically, they were told nothing at all.
Significant change can’t be kept a secret, and rumors quickly spread among these employees about something mysterious going on that would profoundly affect them. But what, exactly, they weren’t told, and not being told made them nervous, frustrated, and angry.
When I visited several months after the completion of the upgrade, I asked one such employee how he and his teammates learned about the upgrade. He said their first clue was when someone from IT showed up, unannounced, to “mess with our computers.”
Coping with major change is difficult enough for most people. In projects like this one, those affected should not be kept out of the loop. During times of major change, readily available information can help reduce the fears of those affected about what it means for them. Sadly, this intense need is often unmet.
If you’re involved in implementing change, it’s wise to keep people informed—not just about the change itself, but also about its impact on processes, responsibilities, and expectations. Face-to-face methods are ideal, where feasible; for example, periodic meetings with small groups provide a forum for presenting updates and answering questions. In addition, video presentations, Q&A sessions, demos, and information posted online and in public spaces can help keep people informed.
Yes, these efforts take time, but make no mistake: Reassuring people that they haven’t been forgotten is no small thing.
Information dissemination does something else; it helps generate buy-in by those affected. To achieve buy-in, involve those affected as early in the effort as possible. Invite personnel to discuss the steps that will help them gain familiarity with the changes. Ask selected employees to help devise ways to ensure that their peers become comfortable with the new procedures. Conduct interviews to identify the biggest concerns in the affected groups, and take steps to address these concerns.
Even small steps will help, because they provide a way of saying, “We’re listening.”