A few years ago, I came across an organization that was having a real morale issue within the ranks. It turns out that there were a number of things contributing to this issue but in the end, the most significant cause turned out to be the strategic plan. Management knew where they were heading but the troops had no idea what lay ahead. Management had a plan but had neglected, or did not want, to let anyone else in on it.
A good solid strategic plan is critical to an organization’s success but can be derailed by poor communication.
What’s the core to the problem? Why do strategic plans suffer from poor communications? I think the reason is fear of change – from both camps.
Employees fear the unknown. They fear job loss, new managers, process change and the list goes on. If they don’t know where we are heading and what the future potentially holds, they will be nervous.
As leaders, we must understand that many people fear change. Change brings risk to our employees and unless they are brought into the big picture, their fears, real or imagined, will affect their performance and their happiness. The obvious extension… they may start looking elsewhere for more security.
But do leaders fear change? Not the change particularly, but depending on the size of the organization, it’s the affect of the change they worry about and more precisely, the fear of losing people.
The larger the organization, the less this is an issue. If people don’t like the direction, they can be replaced. But more often, in small to medium sized organizations, replacing people is not so easy.
This organization I referred to refused to reveal the long-term plan for fear of loosing people. In their case, the size of the community and access to good people was a serious issue.
So, if you have a strategic plan, regardless of the degree of change, you need a communications plan. In a nut shell, who needs to know what, when, how and why. And it should start with the premise that EVERYONE needs to know at least a part of the story.
Who? List all your stakeholders, including employee groups and ask yourself what they need to know. ** The key to a good communications plan is to put yourself in the shoes of the receiver and ask yourself what you would want, or need, to know.
Once that list is complete, ask yourself when and how they should be told. The CEO is not always the right person to bring the troops up-to-date. Sometimes the direct manager who is closer to the field is the person to relay the message.
And most importantly the message must be delivered with the WHY. Why are we doing this? What does it mean to me and my team?
Strategic plans often bring change and this causes uncertainty. A good, well thought out communications plan can help.
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