Business transformation - how to communicate effectively (part 2 of 3)

Written by
Changeboard Team

19 Nov 2012

19 Nov 2012 • by Changeboard Team

Have a clear strategic vision

To be successful, transformation programmes need to work for everyone. Clear and compelling reasons must be presented about why the changes are happening and people need to feel engaged at all levels.

“If you don’t have a compelling view of the future, then no-one will want to go there, you have to paint a picture of what it will look like when it's finished.” Wise words from Patrick Butcher, group finance director, Network Rail, who spoke about the transformation agenda at an event we organised recently. 

Embarking on a transformation programme will inevitably be a difficult and challenging journey and many people still fear change because they don’t like things being done to them – involve them and you have started to win hearts and minds.

Debbie Meech, who was people director at Cable & Wireless Worldwide, told the audience: “Instead of saying we are going to do this and enforcing it, change should be about inclusivity, so people feel part of the control process of making it happen.” 

Debbie even advocated using the word 'development' rather than change, which can be seen as negative.

It's important for people to understand why transformation is happening, to recognise the need for efficiencies that will no doubt affect their day-to-day roles and they must feel the benefits of achieving successful change will be within their reach.

Keep communications simple

Can you summarise the reasons behind a change programme and the benefits which will be achieved on just half a page of paper? If not, then the chances are you'll fail.

Clarity of message and strong leadership from the front are two of the critical elements required to attain successful change. To embrace what is happening, employees have to understand the reasons for it and have the confidence and trust in the management team to deliver.

Overcomplicated messages or a tendency to blame change on external pressures that don’t really exist can only create a climate of uncertainty, while too much 'spin' as you try to convince people will do more harm than good.

For everyone who buys into the programme there will inevitably be those who are harder to convince of its benefits. Saboteurs will erode the chances of success, so identify them early on and get them to come on board or allow them to move on, enabling you to concentrate on the bigger picture.

Ensuring the right cultural fit

In part one of this series, we asked if change could be delivered by in-house HR professionals and came to the conclusion that it is often better to bring in an interim consultant with experience of change programmes to work in partnership with the HR team, rather than try to manage it all internally. Where in-house HR teams add true value and can complement the work of the interim, which is helping to ensure the cultural fit is right. 

In any business transformation programme, specialist project managers will be required to work in the different functions being transformed. An internal HR partner can make a huge difference in ensuring those key individuals demonstrate the right cultural behaviour and fit to enable the transformation to go smoothly. 

For example, if someone has been working on a change programme in the public sector, the culture and working practices may well be very different to that within a FTSE 100 business, so what works well in the culture of one organisation may not work elsewhere.

Similarly, if a company is trying to implement transformation globally, the way the programme needs to be handled and the messages delivered will vary significantly from country to country.

Very often, it's the simple element of ‘gut feeling’ which will be invaluable in determining the best approach.

Responsibility for success

As the transformation programme evolves, the HR team will take a massive role in driving change. HR will ensure the necessary skills training is delivered in the most appropriate and effective manner as the business transitions from old to new.

Establishing a real team feel is essential to making sure knowledge is transferred effectively from any external advisors and when the time comes for the interim team to move on, it is HR who will be responsible for ensuring the transformation has been embedded into the heart of the business.