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To implement a successful change initiative, you must first create the desire for change within the affected stakeholder community. If stakeholders believe the message being communicated, the way they react and feel changes in response.
Research in Australia, New Zealand and the United States has consistently demonstrated physical changes in people based on what they've been told. Studies report people Down Under and in Canada who are told wind turbines cause health problems actually experience health problems. Similarly, in a 2007 study, Harvard researchers told some female hotel employees that their usual duties met the U.S. Surgeon General's recommendations for an exercise regimen. Four weeks later, the researchers found improvements in blood pressure, body mass index and other health indices among the informed group compared to a control group of attendants who hadn't been so informed.
What this suggests is the conversations around your change initiative will have a direct effect on how people experience the change. Gossip and scaremongering will cause bad reactions; positive news creates positive experiences.
To drive success, you need to make the right conversations. Some strategies to help include:
If you can't see and articulate how the change is actually going to work, it probably won't work. Explain "how" and keep explaining to everyone affected by the project's outcomes.
While it's painful to integrate change management planning into your project planning, it's even more painful to watch your project fail. Make sure all aspects of the change are covered in your project plan or the associated change management plan -- and that the two plans are coordinated.
Keep explaining the "whys" behind the change. Once is never enough! You need a well-thought-out and implemented communication plan.
The only antidote to scaremongering is information. And that information needs to be accurate and believed. What's actually going to happen is never as bad as the things people imagine "might happen" in the absence of easy-to-understand, well-communicated facts.
Expectations tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. You need to communicate the expected change your project is creating will be beneficial and good for the majority of the stakeholders. If this message is both true and believed (the two elements are not automatically connected), the experience of the stakeholders is more likely to be positive.
Communication often can mean the difference between project success and failure. A 2013 PMI Pulse of the Professionâ„¢ in-depth report shows that executives and project managers around the world agree that poor communication contributes to project failure. Of the two in five projects that fail to meet original goals, one of the two do so because of ineffective communications. The study also reveals that effective communication is a critical factor in creating success.
Given the stakes, it's time to ask: How much positive communication do you do each day?