Change management doesn’t have to be complicated

About the author

Ann is a co-founder of PR Academy. Her special areas of interest are internal communication, change management and project communication. MSc, Dip CAM, MCIPR

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash
Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Communication plays a key role in delivering successful change and is at its most effective when there is good change management in place too.

But what is change management? Why does an understanding matter for PR and communication? 

I’ve borrowed this definition from the Association for Project Management:

The change management process links strategy with execution, and deployment with operation and the ultimate realisation of the expected benefits.”

We use change management to move an organisation, or part of it, from where it is now to a future state.  For example, that might be the roll out of a new IT system or relocating people from one office to another. 

For me, there are three reasons why an understanding of change management theory and models is important:

  • It helps the communicator to ask the right questions of a change project
  • You can develop a communication strategy that is aligned with the change management strategy and plan.
  • There may also be an opportunity here for the communicator to drive the change and step into a more leading role. Where there isn’t change management in place it will be in our interests to do so because it is only through successful change management that we can deliver successful change communication. 

A lot is talked and written about change and it can seem daunting and overly complicated. Of course, asking people to change the way they work and dealing with stakeholders who have conflicting interests is rarely simple.  However, good change management doesn’t have to be complicated.

The starting point for designing change communication is the change impact assessment. This assessment is the role of the change manager and it’s an important step because without it we could easily miss a major impact on a group of stakeholders. We can end up throwing a lot more communication effort at it than is needed or put the effort in the wrong place.

Never assume that because a change project is costing a lot or is complicated in terms of delivery that the change impact will be significant too – and vice versa!  

For example, the roll out of a new IT system and new ways of working will mean significant change but the upgrade of that system, while possibly expensive and complex to actually do, may not have such a significant impact.

I was one asked to support a major IT change project and told it would definitely need five days a week but when I scoped it out, the change didn’t need anything like that amount of effort. I’ve also supported procurement changes that seemed insignificant but caused huge kerfuffle (particularly around the purchase of biscuits – don’t ask).

In assessing the change, we start with a gap analysis – what is going to be different between now and the future state? Then work out the impact on different stakeholder groups. From this, a plan can be built that helps move the organisation towards the future state.  

Our PR Place Guide to Change Management combines change management theory – for example Kotter and Lewin – with practical advice on doing change impact assessments, setting out change readiness criteria, the role of key performance indicators (KPIs) and much more.

These concepts are also explored, along with change communication, in our Change Management and Communication course, accredited by the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA).

If you know us at PR Academy you’ll know we love a bit of theory but we believe in showing how it can be applied and I hope this guide does that.

Guide to Change Management

This guide will help you to:

  • Understand the key terms and theories
  • Work out the impact of the change
  • Build a change communication strategy and plan
Guide to Change Management - PR Place

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