By: Andrew Formanek, Strategic Thought Partner of Key&Spark
As a leader, you may be aware of the critical role communications can play in any large-scale organizational change or transformation. The success or failure of any initiative can often hinge on effective communications. Indeed, poor communications is regularly cited as a leading cause of failure for major projects and programs.
Nevertheless, the day-to-day pressures of any wide-ranging change program can sometimes push a leader’s commitment to comms down the priority list or - worse still - see communications dismissed as little more than a superficial PR exercise.
The fact is that communications can be a crucial factor in navigating change, so if you and your organization are on the verge of a large transformation or change program, here are three ways a dedicated program communications workstream can deliver real value.
A Stakeholder-driven Strategy
In addition to delivering results, you as a leader, are continually striving to manage the perception of your program among a range of stakeholders. For some leaders, this may mean no more than a few articles highlighting recent achievements, organizational change announcements, and some smart corporate branding. However, while these activities are useful in raising a program’s profile among ‘low-impact’ stakeholders (e.g., a general audience with little influence on the program’s success), they should only take up a small portion of comms efforts.
Instead, you should direct the lion’s share of work toward high-impact stakeholders who directly contribute to the program and can have the most influence on its success. These include program sponsors and senior stakeholders, people doing the actual work and delivering results, as well as key internal or external contributors.
A thorough stakeholder analysis is the best way to meet this aim. It should be up to your communications workstream – in cooperation with the program head and other functional leads – to identify and gauge the importance of each stakeholder group, and then tailor a communications strategy to meet their individual needs, ensuring that the key stakeholders and contributors are well informed and engaged with the program.
With a well-constructed plan in place, and a dedicated communications workstream responsible for its execution, you and those leading your program can rest (somewhat) assured that the perception of the initiative is being well and actively managed.
A Sense of Team & Purpose
A communications workstream should also build a strong sense of purpose within the program team. This mission should begin as soon as the program kicks off: Everyone working to deliver the initiative should clearly understand the goals of the program and their own role in achieving them.
With guidance from the program lead, the communications workstream can take responsibility for the planning and materials to keep everyone on the same page. Activities may include producing an inspiring kick-off event or creating an onboarding process to welcome new contributors to the team with personal introductions and informative training materials. The scope of these activities will depend on the size of the program and its budget, but with a little creativity, the desired impact can certainly be attained.
Clearly communicated roles and responsibilities, organizational changes and program achievements also help create a sense of team spirit and a common goal and should be published promptly and frequently.
Finally, your communications workstream can also take ownership of off-site events, which provide a great venue for building rapport, creating personal connections, and celebrating milestones and accomplishments.
Supporting Other Functions
As already stated, effective communication is one of the cornerstones of any successful project or program. Typically, communication efforts fall to the program head, individual project managers, and others. Engaging a professional communicator workstream can relieve these resources from much of the communications burden and provide them with more time to focus on other priorities.
Through it requires some guidance, the program head should be able to look to the communications workstream to provide both proactive and responsive communications, ensure important milestones are reported to relevant audiences and raise the profile of a given initiative or achievement. The program head should also leverage the communications workstream to ensure all presentations and materials are on message and reflect the program’s objectives.
The communications workstream can also provide tangible support to other program functions. For example, by working closely with the Program Management Office to fine tune reports and presentations or ensure new processes are communicated across the program. For its part, Human Resources can enlist the communications workstream to help craft sensitive messages to staff impacted by any program-related changes.
Lastly, project managers and other team members should also be able to look to the communications workstream for help in professionalizing any materials intended for external publication, such as how-to guides, e-learning, and other collateral materials.
As you can now see, professional communications can offer practical support to a broad range of program-related activities. A dedicated communications workstream will prove its value by engaging high-impact stakeholders, creating a sense of focus and unity within the team, and helping key program resources spend their time on the priorities that matter most.
Do you need support for your change program? Are you ahead of changes and don’t know where to start? Let’s talk. Book a free intro call.