Everyone likes to deliver good news and it’s so easy, just blast the good news. It’s not so easy when the message is a new policy or change within the organization that may have mixed reviews. The first of the year is a prime time for companies to deliver new messages. Often these messages are not well received for a variety of reasons. And for this reason, not everyone likes to be the messenger; as in “don’t shoot the messenger”.
New messages are often not received well due to the way in which they were created and then delivered. How many times have you gotten a corporate email with a new directive and thought “who thought of this plan?”. Details are missing, the end result is obscure, time lines are vague, and there may even be conflicting directives. Most often the big miss is the WHY. Why are you adding to or changing policy? Before going off on a hostile rant try to remember a simple clarification; was the person or group crafting and delivering this message acting with malicious intent or did they just not know any better. Fortunately, most of the time it is because the message was not thought out clearly, properly shared, and was not delivered with a practiced approach.
Here’s a 4-step proven approach to crafting a message and delivering it with the best possible results.
Step One – Open Discussion: Bring together as many people as possible from as many affected groups as practical. Discuss how far reaching and focused the message and consequences are and involve those participants. What is the message going to be; a new policy, a restatement of an old one, or something new. Figure out the “Why”. This will be the central theme, why we are now doing this. We need this new message (policy) because of “X”.
Practice delivering the new message within the decision group. Does it make sense to everyone? Does the message contain all the important factors:
- Clear explanation of what the message is and who will be affected.
- Why is action is being taken
- What effects it will have
- Time frame for when it starts and an end date if necessary
- Who will facilitate the FAQs.
Step Two – Content Delivery: Make the decision on who will deliver the message. Depending on the impact this could be a senior executive level delivery or perhaps a local management delivery. The impact level will determine the need for supporting documents; conference call with slides, policy documents available, a simple email with phone call, the delivery needs to be well planned. Anticipate the FAQs and let the audience know who the FAQ facilitator is.
Step Three – Delivery of the Message: Depending on the type of message delivered the delivery can run through several options. There is the firm message in the form of “this is not up for discussion” here is what we are going to do all the way to a soft delivery in the form of “we have thought this through and want to change policy” but we want you the audience to also help with craft the new policy.
Whatever the decision is as to what type of message is being delivered it needs to be very clear to the audience what the outcome of further discussion will be. Go through all the essential factors listed above and verify that everyone understands the new message.
Depending on the importance of the new message there could be a need for written acceptance of the policy. Remember, if this step is necessary there needs to be coaching so that the audience understands that they need to acknowledge and follow the new policy.
Step Four – Final Follow Through: After delivery of the message there needs to be follow up meetings with all employees affected by the new policy. This can be done by addressing local groups or by having individual discussions. Reinforcement is necessary anytime there is a change. During these meetings acceptance, can be documented formally or by group consensus.
The inevitable next occurrence is when individuals refuse to follow the change. The follow up with these individuals is a clear understanding of the message and the consequences of non-acceptance. Meet individually with each person and let them know that the new policy is non-negotiable and that their agreement of the plan is not necessary, they do need to understand, acknowledge and follow the policy. The individual also needs to know that there are consequences if they do not follow the new policy. At the conclusion of this meeting there needs to be a statement and/or written acknowledgement from the individual that they understand and will comply with the new policy. This is important in that there needs to be an acknowledgement from them of the policy, and admission that they acknowledge it, and a clear explanation of the consequences for non-compliance.
Use this 4-Step plan to effectively implement change within your organization. Change will continue, the true test is how you provide the change leadership.