Timely and effective communication forms a critical part of any service improvement project. To transform an organization and move people and process from just thinking about Continual Service Improvement (CSI) activities to actually allotting time to be able to performing CSI activities, it is critical that all stakeholders are informed of all changes to the processes, activities, roles and responsibilities. The goal of the communications plan is to build and maintain awareness, understanding, enthusiasm and support among all stakeholders for the CSI initiative. A communication plan is much more than just sending out one notification on what is about to happen and should be a series of notifications and meetings to keep people engaged, informed and passionate while incorporating the ability to deal with responses and feedback from the targeted audience.
First, we must design how we will communicate and then we must define what and to whom we will communicate.
The plan must contain:
- What mechanisms and tools will be engaged to both deliver and receive responses and feedback to the project team, process teams and target audience.
- Identification of key stakeholders and target audience.
- The creation of an overall communication strategy and tactics.
- The creation of a matrix of who, what, when, where and how.
- Defined project milestones.
An effective communication strategy and plan will focus on creating awareness of why the organization is implementing changes, the value of those changes to the organization, how each individual team or unit will be impacted, what the value to them will be along with the purpose and importance of their engagement. The plan will also need to speak to what additional skills or tools may be needed and what formal education, if any, will be provided. When developing your communication strategy and plan it is important to take into consideration how corporate communication works today. In some organizations this will need to be planned. We must also keep in mind the culture around communicating with the business. There may be guidelines on who can communicate with the business.
When defining your plan, the following needs to be taken into consideration:
Who is the messenger? This is a critical element and should not be discounted when assessing the importance of aligning the messenger with the message.
What is the message? Define the purpose and objective of the message. This needs to be tailored to the target audience. Keep in mind the importance of communicating the benefits of the CSI initiative. The what’s-in-it-for-me approach can be a strong persuader for the individuals who will be expected to carry out the activities of the initiative and must be addressed.
Who is the target audience? The target audience will be any stakeholder who will be performing CSI activities or that the initiative will impact. The target audience will often define who will deliver the message based on what the message is.
Timing and frequency of communication
Be sure to plan and execute your communication in a timely manner. For your communication to be effective, it should be an iterative process that will take more than a one-time communication. If milestones and progression of the project is what is being communicated, you will want to have defined timelines and frequency for your target audience.
Method of communication
The practice of sending emails and putting something on the web can work for some forms of communication, but to ensure success, the need to engage in face-to-face meetings where there is an opportunity for two-way communications to take place will be a critical success factor. Attending staff meetings, holding information meetings open to all stakeholders and conducting town hall meetings must be considered.
Be sure to keep a record of all communications as that will ensure your plan has been properly executed and can be utilized later in a post-implementation review.