We are winding down the series on systems and policies and how to keep them evolving and improving in your organization. We began with a look at clearly defining systems and the policies to support them, then introduced a great tool for making changes in those systems as your organization evolves and grows. Today we tackle communicating changes in both systems and policies effectively.
Whenever a change is made to a system or a policy, that change needs to be clearly communicated to all the staff impacted. The tool we use for that at PGS is creatively called a Change Communication or CC. This is how it works.
A CC is a one page form that is filled in and sent to all staff impacted by a change. Use of the form helps you create sustainable change. Why? Because the form forces you to think through and articulate to staff what is needed to operationalize the change. The CC form includes all the main buckets of information to create a sound change.
Let’s take those buckets one at a time:
- The Why: The “why” on the CC is to get buy-in. This may sound trivial, but it is essential. When staff is not given a why for a change, they assume or create one, and depending on the trust level and culture in the organization, a created “why” can simultaneously create a mutiny. For example, an organization told employees they needed approval for overtime in writing before they were allowed to take it, but did not explain why. The employees grumbled that the executives were trying to take away overtime and were hostile about the change. In reality, a new accounting system had been put in place that required overtime hours to be coded to one of several categories depending on the type of work. Leadership simply needed to make sure accounting had the accurate code in the system and had no problem with allowing for the overtime.
- The What: The “what” of the change is also a critical piece. Thoroughly answering what is changing forces the CC writer to think about all staff who are effected by the change. Needing to ask “who all might this effect” forces a look at the whole system and assures that everyone impacted will be made aware of the changes.
- The When: The third section – the timing of the change – is usually covered in part, but rarely in whole. There should be 3 dates on any CC: the date to introduce the change and gather feedback, the date for the initial roll-out of the updated system or policy and the date for a check to see how it is working. The 3 dates allow for tweaks to the change and confirmation that it is fully in place. After the first date you gather feedback on any potential glitches, and tweak the change accordingly (make sure to reissue an accurate CC if there is a change). After the roll-out another check is made to ensure that the change is effectively producing the desired end result.
Says Jen Jarvis, the co-creator of the CC form, “It takes work to do this. Leadership has to understand the return on investment of time spent on a CC. Sometimes as a leader, you just want to implement a change and move on. But if you approach it that way, you will likely need to budget time to course correct and deal with conflict. Change is not easy even when it is for the good. Using a tool like a CC that helps you to effectively roll-out change is a good investment. Remind yourself of the ROI when using this process.”
Send us your thoughts and questions, or request a copy of the Change Communication form to use in your organization.