We were given the task of designing a communication plan to convince a group of (very stubborn) leaders and managers of a company to implement a new system in their company. It was a computer simulated exercise, we were given an organigram, some clues about the individuals, a credit of 120 days to convince all 24 top managers to adopt the new system (and be happy at the end of it, and try to keep our job!). We were split in groups of 4 and told them we had a few tools, no time limit (the test was the only thing between us and lunch though!) and we were wished good luck…..Easy (thought some if us)….well…. it was quite challenging, no matter what we tried, some simply refused to “just do it”. So we had to find out about internal politics, about influence networks, who the early adopters are, who goes for lunch with whom, who are the “passive aggressive” who is willing to spend his “goodwill account” (or I prefer calling it his brownie-point bag) to help you, whether hierarchical relationships are more important than the informal networks….3 hours later and with zero credit we had convinced 95% of the group, not the whole group, but we were pretty happy with the results and learned a lot of do’s and don’ts along the way and the 4 in the team happily went for lunch together (I mean we were still talking to each other despite the radically divergent opinions on whether sending a decree was more effective than having a one-to-one meetings).
What are some of the take-home messages from this exercise about using communication to manage a transition?
Find out early who is committed to the change, target early the Innovators, the opinion leaders, the gatekeepers, the network leaders (they help you influence others)…lave the resistors to the end, create and maintain momentum, use small group meetings to “seed” and large events to “harvest”, do not abuse people’s time, do not over-communicate (face-to-face are at the top of the media richness scale, mass e-mail at the bottom!), respect people’s view, ensure the change is fair (both in process and outcome…which means make sure people are heard, decisions are applied with consistency, feedback is given in a timely fashion, decisions are based on facts, communication is sincere and personal, you need to understand early what drives people..so you can better influence them….we learned the lesson during the exercise…we started having more success when we realised who was going for lunch with whom… 🙂