The most effective communication is outcome-focused in a contextually appropriate way. Think about what matters and why to you and to the people you’re trying to influence. Then think about the best approach to moving those people in the right direction. Bring it all to fruition with personalized communication pushing for the right level of engagement delivered by situationally appropriate leaders in the right manner.
Deloitte’s change strategy leader, Mike Bentley took me through the communication aspects of their new change management methodology. The core of it is focusing on the desired outcome, driving the right balance of will and skill across four types of transformation (Tech Slam, Process Acceleration, Modernization, or True Transformation,) leveraging three enablers (Affinity, Style, and Commitment.)
Bentley started his explanation where all change initiatives should start – the desired outcome. As Bentley told me “Organizations fail because they’re missing what they’re really trying to do.” He went on to explain that what leaders really care about is how to drive success and “How to structure the right approach to get to that success.”
Will and Skill
The right approach to change management builds people’s willingness to change and ability to deliver what is required during and after the change. The balance of those two is different across the four types of transformations. Bentley took me through them:
Four Transformation Types
- Tech Slam – Very Information Technology (IT) focused. Most transformation programs have a huge IT component. A pure Tech Slam is about replacing a technology platform. Generally these involve no organizational changes. The key is building the required skills for employees to be able to use the new systems. Thus, these involve heavy investment in training and processes and procedures with less investment in motivation. These programs can be effective with their limited scope
- Process Acceleration – These are about adjusting and evolving defined processes to increase efficiency or speed. There may be some job role changes. Similar to Tech Slams, these are focused on increasing ability by building skills in existing people and adding new people.
- Modernization – These involve changing technology and updating people. They also involve changes to operations. Some organizations use this as a response to digital changes. People generally understand they have to change the technology and process to do things like letting customers place orders on line. There’s a bias to building skills and some need to motivate people to be willing to change. This means leaders need to explain why the change is happening and the strategy behind it to get people to buy into the change and think differently.
- True Transformation is at the other end of spectrum. These are the most disruptive transformations at points of inflection. The aim is to change the way things are done. These require rewiring organizations, redefining cultures, leadership, and organizational operating models. While there’s certainly a skill or ability-building component, the key is the willingness component.
Bentley suggests looking at three enablers in improving people’s willingness to change.
- Affinity is the first enabler. Messaging is most effective when it comes from the group to which people are most closely affiliated. For example a finance person might affiliate with the geographic team they are part of , the business unit or the overall finance function, suggesting different communication leaders.
- Transformational communication should nest within organizations operational styles. Not all styles work in all organizations. For example, command and control communication won’t work in organizations with more bias to supporting each other, sharing responsibilities or working with guided accountability.
- Understand the level of engagement you need. Bentley calls this commitment versus support. It’s a different way of looking at compliance vs. contribution vs. commitment. Bentley suggests that a True Transformation can not be successful without at least 15% of people crossing the tipping point to commit to the program.
Let’s give Bentley the last word: “It is important for organizations to be realistic on the type of transformation they intend and then connect their change management efforts accordingly. We have seen too often that organizations have committed to a true transformation but look at the organizational change efforts as a tech slam. This is a recipe for limited results that require alignment from the start.”