A change in process.
A change in reporting structure.
A change in policy.

Often phrases like this in business conjure up negative emotions: stress, anxiety, uncertainty. Changes in business should help improve a current situation and deliver more benefit to an employee, customer, the organization—or all, if done well and thoughtfully considered!

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If you want your change to be successful and produce the intended result, communication is absolutely critical.

Here are some of the key steps I recommend when introducing a change to your organization, and some communication approaches to consider during each stage.

1. Do your homework.

Defining the goal and intended result of the change you are introducing is vitally important, as this will be your true north star for the initiative. Once defined, understand the impact the initiative for change is going to have on any and all parties involved (team members, clients, partners, etc.). Diagnosing and understanding these items will help you better prepare for the amount of time necessary to successfully implement the initiative.

If you want your change to be successful and produce the intended result, communication is absolutely critical.

2. Validate the need.

Confirm that the problem statement you are working on resonates with others. Have they noticed this issue as well? Do they experience it as often as you thought? What has prevented this or something similar from being instituted before? These are all good questions to help you validate the magnitude of the issue, and may also start to surface risks or other facets of the initiative that you might not have considered yet. You might even uncover that the criticality of the change is less pressing than you thought, or that timing considerations for the deployment should be made in order for the change to be most effective.

3. Solicit input.

At times you may find it easier to just come up with the recommendations and deploy them. Not only would that make my blog post shorter, it would also be bad advice. You should always seek input, even if it’s just in the form of a quick survey. Ideally, you’ll be able to establish a steering committee or core team that is representative of the impacted teams you identified. Any of these methods will ensure others “had a say” in the initiative (and you might be surprised what you find out!).

4. Document and vet.

Formalize what you are recommending by restating the problem statement you are working against, restating the intended value, and putting some parameters around what the change is or is not. While you may think these aspects are obvious, being intentional about stating these items is critical and will need to be reinforced as much as possible. Vetting these statements and recommendations with key team members will be critical in helping you understand how the change will resonate with the impacted team members. And you may get some tips on sensitive language or terms that can impact the rollout. As part of this step, ensuring you put a plan in place for monitoring and measuring success will be important.

Don’t be afraid to ask people how the change is working and make sure you are approaching any feedback with an open mind.

5. Deploy.

Communicate, communicate, communicate—to all of the impacted parties. Be intentional with your wording, reinforcing all of the points mentioned in the above step. Explain the process you went through to come to the conclusions you did. Be excited about the subject matter and help paint the picture of the benefits that this will lead to for all of the different parties impacted. Also, be honest about the pitfalls or risks of implementing the change, but talk about your plan for monitoring and soliciting additional feedback. If you have a timeframe for reevaluation, state it. Ultimately, you want to ensure that this wasn’t conjured in a silo and that it isn’t forever.

6. Monitor.

Ensure any monitoring and feedback systems you have in place are ready to be leveraged—and use them! Don’t be afraid to ask people how the change is working (or not working) and make sure you are approaching any feedback with an open mind. Follow through on your promise of reevaluation, and follow a similar process for any iterations or updates to the change that you plan to make.

Introducing change is certainly not easy, but hopefully it can be a positive experience that demonstrates an improvement and better future for all parties involved!

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