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Change Management: The Need for Action
In any action, people's first and last question will be some version of why. From start to finish, you will have to address such questions as the following:

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Why do we need this?
What's wrong with the way we are doing things now?
What will the action do for employees?
What happens if we are not successful?
Does this mean fewer jobs?
Is this something to worry about or look forward to?

The why question is not always easy to answer, particularly if the company is profitable and there are no apparent problems. You have to convince people that you are preparing for the future, not attempting to remedy the past.

In addressing this first priority, how you choose to launch your action program is a critical decision. The choice tends to be driven mostly by your action path. In most cases, the longer-duration decathlons and marathons are best launched in a low-key way. Because of the often lengthy time between the start of actions and the point at which actions actually pay off, it is better not to raise interest and expectations too high if no immediate steps are required.

Conversely, the shorter-running sprints and high jumps are likely to demand either a higher-profile launch or a means of getting information out to people quickly.

The following three high-impact communication vehicles can be used to explain the case for action and to launch actions of varying length.

1. Briefing Cascade
This communication process harnesses what we call the boss principle, taking advantage of the unique relationship that exists between employees and their bosses at all levels. Here's how it works:

Senior managers brief middle managers, who, in turn, brief frontline employees. As John Eaton, managing director of Barclaycard, says, "The best way to get the communication process really working is to get line managers and supervisors developing a sense of ownership for wanting to get the message through the business."

A sample cascade agenda might include a recap of vision and values, possibly using a video featuring the chief executive officer; the case for action; actions to move the organization forward; your role in the action; and feedback on the briefing.

Remember that most employees expect and wish to hear important information directly from their supervisors. And these managers are uniquely placed to be able to interpret the information for those employees.

On the flip side, a supervisor who is not fully engaged in the action process is the one person whose behavior can stymie the progress made by communicating through other channels.

2. Mobilization Workshops
In longer actions, a powerful vehicle for explaining the need is to combine the cascade approach with a workshop format. The sessions are attended by subsequent tiers of employees—managers first, then front¬line people—in groups of 10 to 50. The trick is to give each group time to internalize the action specifics—both during and after the workshop—before asking it to lead workshops with the next tier.

One drawback is that workshops are very resource-intensive, and they usually cannot cover the entire organization. They also demand substantial involvement by the leader and top team to demonstrate their commitment.

On the plus side, though, this communication vehicle demands instant participation. It also allows time to respond to objections, and it pushes people to commit to the activity.

3. E-mail or Memo from the Action Leader
It may seem obvious, but it works. In actions that are better suited to a low profile or that require an immediate introductory communication, a simple e-mail or paper memo to all staff members can explain what the action is about and lay out an elementary case for the action.

E-mail has the advantage of providing wide coverage for a consistent message. It also allows the sender to, in effect, play down the action while laying the groundwork for more communication later. There are some disadvantages, though. E-mail depersonalizes the communication. It is one-way. It can carry only a few lines (that is, if you expect anybody to read it). Also, e-mail from the action manager conflicts with the boss principle, so it might be seen as less trustworthy and credible.

Keep Explaining the Need for Action
Here are our suggestions:

1. Concentrate initially on explaining why the action is being taken rather than what the action is.
2. Complete these sentences in 10 or fewer words: "We need to take action because ..." "You need to take action because ..."
3. Make the action leader the initial voice of any launch communication, but maximize the boss principle in providing follow-up clarity, context, and commitment.
4. Review the opportunity to use either cascade briefings, mobilization workshops, or action e-mails to launch the action with the correct profile.
5. Reinforce the message with supporting media, including dedicated newsletters, corporate news media, and agenda items at regular briefing events.
6. Build a question-and-answer package that provides good, consistent answers to the why questions posed by stakeholders.
7. Be cautious about criticizing the past, always remembering that your audience is part of the history that you are denouncing.
8. Use a feedback questionnaire within each primary vehicle to assess people's understanding and belief in the case for action, the potential benefits, the key stages, and the duration of the action program.

Source :
Stephen Redwood, Charles Goldwasser, and Simon Street, Action Management: Practical Strategies for Making Your Corporate Transformation a Success,. John Wiley & Sons. You can find this excellent book here

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