A communication strategy is the critical piece to bridging the purpose and the implementation of your vision or any major change program. It is a written plan that details the stakeholders and how the message will reach its audience.
An effective communication strategy starts with determining clear objectives that include strong motivation behind the message to be delivered. You can start by answering three questions:
- WHY is it important to YOU as the IT Leader to inform your IT team and IT stakeholders of the IT Department Vision, Mission, Values and Principles as well as the overall IT strategy?
- WHAT can they expect to see differently?
- HOW will the change be implemented?
Knowing the answers to these simple questions will articulate the intentions and outcomes of the strategy.
To validate the assumption behind your answers as well as develop your communication strategy, my recommendation for a planning approach follows three phases:
- Identify the gaps between the existing behaviors and capabilities and the future state desired outcomes
- Define your change management strategy and communication approach
- Who are your stakeholders? What do they need to know?
- How will you present the strategy, vision, mission and values?
- What activities will bring the changes to life for the stakeholders?
- What communication platforms will you use with which stakeholders (e.g. all-hands, 1:1 conversation, email messaging, recorded video)?
- Prepare your change management team
- Who is your change management team?
- What are their roles and responsibilities?
- How will you assure everyone is delivering the same message?
- Role playing and practice
- Frequently asked questions
- Develop your sponsorship model
- Is your upline executive on board and behind you?
- Who do you need to vet the change and communication plan in order to assure their support?
- Develop change management plans
- Develop and execute action and implementation plans
- Collect and analyze feedback
- Diagnose gaps and manage resistance
- Implement corrective actions
- Celebrate successes
As you build and execute your communication strategy it is important to have a strong foundation to launch from, a willingness to trial, and to be open to adjusting your approach based on experience and feedback. With that I offer you tips from personal experience:
- People won’t just open up to those they don’t trust. You can’t force trust. You must earn it. You earn it by acting and thinking right. Be honest with yourself and acknowledge where you have gaps in trust with stakeholders.
- Know what and who you need to personally communicate with and to whom you can delegate. The what and who is amplified by how much change is planned or needs to occur. Take the time needed to assure all delegates are representing the collective message and not slanted with their own agenda. Bring the delegates together periodically, be it daily or weekly, to share the context and feedback from the conversations held. In other words, own the delivery even if someone is representing you.
- An essential part of good communication is listening. Never try to end your conversation if you don’t listen and understand what is being spoken. Have you ever been amazed at the memory of great leaders? It is because they listen. Listen well and respond properly. Listening skills are the foremost thing you must possess to improve your communication skills.
- Don’t jump to conclusions based on one person’s conversation. Listen to others before reacting. Multiple inputs enable us to form the best opinion.
- Once you have listened and comprehended what you have heard, take the time necessary to think and then plan what you want to say. There is no foul in thinking before you react. Wars start when one does not stop to think first.
- Believe it or not, we are not always right. Sometimes we make mistakes. The important thing is to admit it and understand where your thinking may have gone wrong. Acknowledge it and adjust from there.
- Train yourself to focus. It is becoming harder and harder due to multi-tasking and the overwhelming amount of information coming our way. We must try to never allow our minds to roam or dream while we are speaking or listening. Not only is it offensive, but you are guaranteed to miss the point.
- Don’t be shy about asking someone to repeat, rephrase, or simply slow down. I will admit I am accent challenged. My brain does not decipher accents well. I have grown beyond pretending I understand when I don’t. It is not worth the risk of misunderstanding and it is rude.
- Make a point of observing yourself when you communicate with others. Take note of your body language. Body language impact on communication can be a whole session or two by itself. Our facial expressions and body stance have a huge impact on how well we are heard and how comfortable people are with sharing feedback. If you stop to think about it, you will understand the concern.
As I finish up today’s article, I realize that some may feel I am overstating the importance of building the stage to communicate your strategy purposefully. You may be thinking – why can’t we just execute and take it from there?
You certainly can, and it may work. At the same time, you will miss the opportunity to assure awareness and expectations behind the vision and mission. More importantly, you will miss the opportunity to partner with your stakeholders and solicit their involvement in executing against your strategy.
I am here if you want to talk about it more.
Until next week!
Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com – an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry.