This post has been inspired by my reflections on my experiences with a range of projects in the past which has confirmed to me the importance of communication in ensuring whether a project is successful or not. I thought it might be helpful to bring these together in a single summary as communication is so important.
When dealing with a major change programme it will be very rare to get all of the communication right – but it is extremely easy to get it completely wrong. My personal definitions of getting it wrong are:
- only sharing information with an ‘inner circle’ of the great and the good and then expecting the other people who are affected by the changes to just take it without complaint.
- giving out information only when there is something significant to say or a big change happening – the rumour mill will take over as communication will happen whether you want it to or not. People will always want to know what is happening so if you don’t tell them (even if all you are saying is ‘there is nothing to say’ they will fill the void.
- limiting the information that is given out to very bland or basic statements – it is important to be as open and honest as you can be (although there will always be sensitive items they need to be shared with the people affected as soon as possible, confidentially if necessary).
- giving out information on an irregular basis so people never know when they are likely to find out what is happening next.
- giving different messages to different people – so that when they compare what is said they do not believe any of what they have been told even if the messages are correct and have just been expressed in different ways.
- missing significant groups of people out of the whole communication process.
- only putting the information into a single format that not everyone can access (like the filing cabinet in the basement in “Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy” by Douglas Adams.
I have shared my reflections on better ways of communicating in a range of previous posts:
- In ‘the importance of marketing skills’ I was talking about the importance of telling everyone about library services – as people will only know the wide range of services they can get if they are told about them.
- How do you ensure you have a successful shared services project covers the importance of involving staff and stakeholders in developing ideas – which is not possible if you do not have an effective communication plan that has kept them informed before asking questions about potential future models. You can tell how effective your communication has been by the reaction of the people you are trying to engage in a constructive conversation – if they are hostile it is quite likely to be because you have not communicated well with them.
- I identified the who, when and what of an effective communication programme in Can the way communication is handled cause problems in a change programme?
- How informal networks can support change managers shows that it is important to look at all of the potential communication networks that are available to you, and not just the formal ones.
- Finally in what are the factors that ensure you achieve good governance in a shared services context? I explain how the trust that is so important to an effective shared services project or organisation is reliant on effective communication – especially the partners understanding each other as often we can be divided by the same language.
In summary the ways in which you can ensure that communication is a positive force in the work you do are to:
- have a clear communication plan which is agreed and signed up to by all partners
- include all of the people who are to be communicated with
- include all of the ways in which the communication will be handled
- make the dissemination routes for the information as wide and inclusive as possible
- have a clear timetable for communication – never less than once a month – and keep to it. It can change at different times in the project and may come down to once a day at significant points
- agree the wording that is going to be used – either in advance in the communication plan or, if it is something that has to be done quickly agree who will have the responsibility for composing the communication to be used.
- be consistent
What have I missed? I would be interested to hear your experiences of communication in your work life. If you would like to do a guest post please get in touch.