How do we get good at communicating during a business transformation programme?

We all know that good communication is vital to the success of any business transformation program but how do we get past the simple messages about communication. 

Early on in my career I worked for a major automotive company. One of the businesses in the company was a make to print business. They wanted to get good at introducing new products into the organisation, into taking the customer designs and making them into manufacturable products. They wanted to look at the process they used in the organisation for doing this. A project team was established, and I was a consultant to them.  At the end of the proposal stage, they made a presentation to the senior leadership team. This was quite detailed and formed a long presentation. At the end of it there was a time for questions. One of the questions was asked by a young lad, who I remember was off to my right-hand side.  He asked “what happened to the design office in your proposals.”  The team replied that it didn’t have a place in their proposals for the future.  The lad blanched and the discussion moved on. 

I was surprised by this exchange because I had expected that the project team would have ironed out those concerns before it got to such a public forum. I asked one of my colleagues on the project team afterwards what he made of the exchange. He explained that this was the fourth time the lad had heard the presentation and the first time he had understood that his department did not have a future in the organisation!

This shows how complicated and difficult communication can be at these times. I’m afraid that’s how it is, and we just have to live with it.  However we can get better at it if we follow a few basic rules:

  1. We need to think about our audience and make sure that in all the difficult communication, the few simple messages get across ie the messages they need to hear.
  2. We need to use the question time effectively, not just in answering the questions that people ask but to listen to why they’re asking things.
  3. In particular we need to ensure that we answer the question: what does this mean to me? In fact we must go further than that we need to answer the question but we need to watch for the reactions.
  4. We must be careful of assuming that just because there may not be much challenge to the proposals, it does not mean that people do not have concerns.
  5. We can use the question time to ask questions of the audience to check in a subtle way whether they really understood what this means to them. 

So overall communication during these times will be difficult but most importantly if we learn to listen to our audience as well as speaking at them then we can learn how to become more effective. 

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