Encouraging Better Business Transformation

5 Phases of Programme Communication

5 Phases of Programme Communication

The task of communicating to the people who will eventually be impacted by the changes brought about by a transformation programme will depend on how well a programme is funded, structured, resourced and led. With all of the right ingredients in place (pat on the back for the Sponsoring Group and the Senior Responsible Owner), a Change Manager will be assigned and would undertake this task. In even more ideal circumstances, particularly in larger transformations, a Communications Manager will assume these responsibilities.

In many cases, where experience or budget is limited, little thought will have been given to how critical communication is to transformational success, and as a result, inadequate communication remains one of the primary reasons that transformation programmes are not as successful as senior stakeholders were promised they would be. i.e. they run late, over-budget, business benefits shrink, staff do not embrace the change, etc.

Whether a Programme Manager, Change Manager or Communications Manager is charged with the task of communicating, they need to create and implement a well thought-through plan which will achieve specific objectives. Too often people think “yes we’ll put up posters, send email and PowerPoint presentations, put something on the web site, have a presentation day, etc.” and assume that they are communicating effectively. They do this almost ad-hoc with no communication strategy or plan driving the effort.

So let’s look at a simple yet structured approach to effective programme communication.

The Five Phases of Programme Communication

The Five Phases of Programme Communication

Phase 1: Programme Preparation

At this stage, the organisation has no real knowledge of the programme and communication should be typically aimed at gaining personal commitment from the members of the stakeholder groups. This is achieved when stakeholders:

  • Are confident that the organisation and the deployment team can complete the implementation
  • Believe the implementation will deliver a variety of tangible benefits
  • Do not have inappropriate expectations
  • Are willing to speak positively about the implementation when they meet with their peers within and outside the organisation
  • Are willing to make the changes in the way they work and relate to others
  • Gain feedback of the business change activities that have taken place

The goal of the communications at this phase is to:

  • Launch the programme
  • Explain the reasons why the organisation is embarking on it
  • Provide an overview of the scope and timing of the programme
  • Describe its importance to achieving the organisation’s vision
  • Engage the organisation in the programme’s delivery

Phase 2: Business Blueprint

At this stage of the programme only a minority of people in the organisation will understand the programme conditions and aims, including scope and timing. At this phase the messages should:

  • Reinforce the reasons why the organisation is carrying out the programme and its significance to the organisation’s vision
  • Describe in more detail how the system is being developed
  • Start to describe at a macro level how some of the company’s processes and their associated benefits might change
  • Celebrate and communicate successful progress to date

Phase 3: Realisation

The majority of people in the organisation should have a better understanding by now of the programme but may not understand how it will affect them as individuals or the organisation in detail. At this stage communications should:

  • Reinforce the reasons why the company is carrying out the programme and its significance to the organisation’s vision
  • Reinforce at a macro level how some of the organisation’s processes and their associated benefits might change
  • Describe at a micro level the process changes and how they affect individuals in the organisation and the organisation itself
  • Start to mitigate some of the resistance issues that start to emerge as the system becomes closer for the organisation
  • Communicate learning points from the programme
  • Identify any new roles and provide a forum for feedback
  • Celebrate and communicate successful progress to date

Phase 4: Final Preparation

The majority of people in the organisation should now understand the programme to the extent of knowing how it will impact their stakeholder group. They should also be able to clearly describe the rationale for the programme in a way in which the audience can understand and appreciate.

If any of the stakeholders are concerned about the programme’s impact on the way the organisation is structured and operates today, communication should:

  • Reinforce the reasons why the company is carrying out the programme and its significance to the organisation’s vision
  • Reinforce at a macro level how some of the organisation’s processes and their associated benefits might change
  • Reinforce at a micro level the process changes and how they affect individuals in the organisation and the organisation itself
  • Continue to mitigate some of the resistance issues that start to emerge as the solution becomes closer for the organisation
  • Communicate learning points from the programme
  • Describe the support strategy for the solution and how other changes will be implemented
  • Instil user confidence
  • Celebrate and communicate successful progress to date

Phase 5: Go-Live

When the implementation programme goes live and users are starting to live with the changes, the communications goal will be to:

  • Reinforce the reasons why the client carried out the programme
  • Describe at a macro level how some of the processes have changed
  • Describe some early wins and the associated benefits
  • Communicate learning points from the programme
  • Celebrate and communicate a successful conclusion of the programme
  • Collect information for future improvements
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A Recurring Process

While the five phases described above provide a good high-level approach to creating a communications plan, the following recurring process should also be considered throughout the life of the programme and form an integral part of the communications strategy:

1) Create and modify the communications plan
2) Develop and publish communications
3) Monitor and assess communication effectiveness

The meaning of communication is the response that we get

Regardless of what we think of our efforts at communication, the meaning of communication is the response that we get. It’s not what we the communicators “think it means”, that matters. It is not the audiences’ fault if “they don’t get it”. So if the responses are not what we need, there is more work to be done by the Programme, Change or Communications Manager.

All in all, effective communication is a major undertaking, particularly if there is a global transformation on the table. Undertaking it well can make an enormous difference to the success of the programme; and there have been many surveys and painful programmes which have proven that point.