The Importance of an Action Plan in Strategic Communication and Change Management

Every single thing we do in our jobs requires acceptance/approval, collaboration and negotiation.

Starting with something as simple as writing a press release and getting it approved (by the way, how many times have you been asked “why do we include this here?”) and ending with a significant organisational restructure/change, one in which you have to ensure you communicate everything that matters to the stakeholders affected – you need to get others involved.

If you know your allies and opponents – or resistors – if you know their sticking points and those aspects they are willing to negotiate on, you will succeed where many before you failed.

There is a very simple structure you can follow to identify who you can rely on, who you need to bring on board and who you need to avoid or, to put it bluntly, push out of your way:

ACTION PLAN

As a strategic communicator or change agent, there are four areas you can have a direct influence or impact on:

  • organisational objectives,
  • corporate culture,
  • corporate structure, and
  • work processes.

Sometimes, you may not have a clear image of where you could add value or which of these four areas would make it easier for you to assert your credibility and trust with your organisation and its leadership.

Take a pen and piece of paper (nothing like the good old handwriting to put your brain cells at work) and describe no more than five changes you would like to make in one or more of these four areas above. Then, include a brief explanation of why you would like to see those changes happen (for you, as a professional) and how easy it would be for your organisation to implement them – don’t lie to yourself.

For instance, and this is just an example, you may end up with the most important change/influence area looking something like this:

“The work process should be a priority for my organisation. And I am not sure it is perceived as such simply because the managers are running out there to get as much work as they can, they get it and they can’t deliver what they have committed to simply because we don’t have that realistic assessment of how much we can take on versus how much we can actually deliver! To me, priority number one is to try to provide them with a true understanding of how damaging that is to us in terms of our reputation and staff morale and productivity.”

PRIORITISE YOUR OPTIONS

Choose a quick win – something that can be done quickly, with minimum staff effort and budget, something that will solidify your standing and position in your organisation.

Build credibility by tackling something that you’re sure it can work 150%.

For instance, your thought process (remember, still using pen and paper) may look like this:

“I believe we need to revisit our stated work methodology versus the current work processes and perform a thorough analysis of what we had initially set out to do versus not  the “what” but the “how” we are currently doing it. There may be opposition or lack of acceptance of a revisit/review but, if I prepare everything carefully and do it step by step, I am sure I’ll succeed. There seems to be a lot of staff buy-in do make this happen and, with the help of the technical and operational departments, I know I can present a solid business case for change.”

WHAT’S YOUR FIRST STEP?

Remembering the “quick win” approach, don’t start by tackling something that will take you one year to see through. Remember that in large organisations, you have those dreaded quarterly Performance Reviews which, if you have nothing “meaty” to show or prove you’re invested 100% in the business, you may part ways with it sooner than you thought.

Therefore, and again this is just an example, your handwritten thoughts may look like this:

“What I am actually going to do is to address the work process and, also, the goals of our organisation. It will be difficult addressing them simultaneously simply because the two Directors are very different in their management style: one is business/Client driven and, therefore, aware of our reputational risks, meanwhile the other is procedure driven – ensuring we do have all the necessary processes and procedures in place, assuming that these are fully observed and implemented.”

Everything starts with the plan you put in place – the more refinement you can give it, the better. The more you cover all the angles, the better. Look at your plan not from a “it’s an amazing plan!!!” perspective but look at it from the “I wonder how many holes I could find in it” perspective.

This approach is called risk preparedness; if there is a risk for your plan to fail, you need to pre-empt it and address it. Don’t rush into doing anything before you’ve really thought it through.

As a PR practitioner and/or communicator and/or change agent, all eyes are on you – you can’t “PR” any business unless you understand how that business works.

You can’t drive any change (which goes beyond any internal communication process) without knowing who you can rely on and who can help you achieve your plan.

Work smart and map your journey towards being recognised for how great you are and the value you can bring.

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