change management

Digital Transformation

What is Change Management? A Communications-Based Approach.

Picture of Dane H. By   Dane H.  

“Change Management” is a term you hear quite a bit in the business world today, although an explanation of the term seldom comes with it. Which is why we decided to provide a little background, because as much as the term is used, it’s not always clear exactly what we mean. What is Change Management, precisely? The question can be daunting, but there’s no need to fear. While the approaches to enacting Change Management are many and varied, the concept itself is not very complicated. And once we define it, we can get into ways that strong communications can help Change Management run smoothly at any business. In fact, we’ve even written a white paper about how the proper tools and technology can help guide the process, which you can learn more about here.

 

What does Change Management mean?

Change Management (or CM for short) is a collective term for all the different approaches to prepare and support both individuals and entire companies for organizational change. This could involve anything from a technological update to total business restructuring. It might include responding to changing consumer habits, or adapting to new budget restrictions. What all Change Management initiatives have in common, though, is that they’re run with the intention of transforming some aspect of business in a way that’s as smooth and effective as possible, eliminating unnecessary stress points, and making the experience as easy as possible for employees, managers, and consumers alike.

 

A Brief History of Change Management

Change Management came about as a concept in the 1960s, with academics beginning to formulate ideas about how people respond to personal and organizational change. Even from the beginning, communication channels were seen as a crucial component to managing change. It wasn’t until the 1980s, however, that corporate consultants started to implement these ideas to help companies effect transition-based initiatives. One of the driving forces behind this was the arrival of computing and the digital age. Companies that had been analogue for decades were suddenly forced to adapt to a new, digital reality. The emergence of the internet in the 1990s and early 2000s only heightened the need for companies to transition to a digital world. These new technologies affected how companies were structured, how they interacted with consumers and conducted commerce, and most importantly, how they communicated, both internally and externally.

 

“Even from the beginning, communication channels were seen as a crucial component to managing change.”

 

Why is change crucial for a company’s life cycle?

A company does not exist in a static environment. There is no such thing as a perfect state. Even if an enterprise reaches a state of maximum efficiency and meets all its goals, that state will not last if the company is not constantly adjusting, tailoring, and heightening its efforts. Companies that rest on their laurels, and that don’t see themselves in a consistent state of flux, usually do not stay relevant. It is normal, even necessary, for companies to go through a life cycle, and evolve over time. The key to survival and remaining competitive is to see the structure and practices of a business as fundamentally dynamic. Because the world we live in is constantly being reshaped by new trends, new technologies, and new consumer models, so too must companies work to reshape themselves to exist in their evolving ecosystem. To do otherwise is to become obsolete. Whether it’s a video rental chain refusing to adjust its business model to the internet, a film company unable to adapt to digital photography, or a department store chain that cannot establish an online checkout, the past two decades have seen numerous companies fail to thrive because they were unable to successfully change.

 

Traditional Strategic Guidelines

From the beginning, pundits have created different models for effective Change Management. As early as 1962, Everett Rogers published his “Diffusion of Innovations” theory, coining terms like “Innovators” and “Early Adopters.” In 1982, Julien Phillips, a McKinsey & Company consultant, published one of the earliest complete Change Management models, and the ‘90s saw the increasing acceptance of models like those proposed by Daryl Conner, in his book “Managing at the Speed of Change.” Today, the Kotter Method, an 8-step change model formulated by John P. Kotter, is often used as a go-to guide for managing change initiatives. All of these approaches share the same essential goal: to create a roadmap to help companies effectively lead their own corporate transformation.

 

Effective communication matters.

Another thing all of these different approaches take into account is the importance of effective communication. Even in Everett Rogers’ initial 1962 publication, he mentions the critical role of communication channels as forces for effective Change Management. Transformation relies on coordination, in multiple parts working together as a whole, and without the proper conduits for information, these coordinated efforts will not run smoothly. Internal communication is one component, but external communication is also essential. Think of it like a giant machine with many moving parts—communication is like the oil that keeps the gears and joints running smoothly.

 

“Together, the right digital tools and methodology can help turn any Change Management project into a success.”

 

The Need for the Proper Digital Tools and Methodology

Two components can help drive effective communication in any Change Management initiative. The first is having the proper digital tools to facilitate communication. For many years, this has meant simply email; more recently, intranets have been introduced as means of enabling corporate communication. Today, digital platforms exist that serve as central hubs for employee communication. Coupled with the right digital tools, however, is a methodology for using that technology to drive change. A strong methodology will involve and empower top management, train employees, given them incentives, and provide them with a means for accessing and sharing relevant content. Together, the right digital tools and methodology can help turn any Change Management project into a success.

 

Sociabble is a platform that provides both.

Beyond being a complete employee communication solution, Sociabble is also tailor-made for Change Management. The Sociabble platform provides a centralized digital hub where employees can receive, create, and share information, as well as a newsletter engine that provides personalized publications, interest-specific channels to keep the flow of information relevant, and a global/local level of admin control that helps important news flow smoothly for large international companies. The platform comes with a complete methodology for onboarding and training management and staff, as well as continued CSM support, in the event that any questions or issues come up. Sociabble has already helped clients like Coca-Cola, Walt Disney, Groupe Renault, BNP Paribas, and L’Oreal adapt their communications to the digital age—just to name a few.

 

To learn more about how Sociabble can help your company’s next Change Management initiative become a success, click here. We’ll be in touch with a free demo.

And to download our white paper on Change Management, just click here.

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