Tyler is passionate about helping libraries turn change into opportunity, and as Director of OCLC Implementation, he supports libraries through diverse transformations, including everything from workflow analysis to library technology implementations.
Depending on who you ask and where you look, change management has any number of important components. However, I’ve found that the actual process of initiating change often falls into two key buckets: planning and communication. Planning is critical, of course, but how, when, and what is communicated can make or break a change initiative. In fact, communication often leads to feedback that helps refine plans, making it even more powerful.
Unfortunately, communication can be an afterthought or initiated only when a change effort is at risk. Sometimes it’s just words on a page explaining the plan. It shouldn’t be, it’s so much more, and can have long-term negative consequences if overlooked or undervalued. Successful change initiatives are communicated like an internal public relations campaign. Every aspect should be orchestrated to increase awareness and buy-in.
Start before the beginning
When should communication about change start? If you’re asking the question, you likely should have started yesterday. It’s best to begin communication while planning is still going on, easing into the detailed information about the actual change. This way, everyone feels a sense of ownership in the outcome. You’ll eventually have to explain concrete activities and provide direction, but if you start sooner rather than later, you can spread it out into manageable chunks and package it with an eye toward the eventual benefits.
The messy middle
As you wade into the messy middle of your plan, do your part to keep it organized, digestible, and upbeat. Not only does consistency in timing and content matter, but so do tone and voice. Remember, you’re not only informing, you’re also inspiring. As you build out the story of what’s going to change, balance your focus on the actual project with the positive opportunities it brings to your organization and individuals. What’s the overall benefit? How will it affect them? Also, be honest about challenges and tell a compelling story. Clear communications and well-stated goals can sometimes make up for the inevitable speed bumps and delays.
Break out the champagne (or cupcakes)
It’s easy to think that once the change actually happens, that’s it and all communication shuts down. After all, what’s left to say once you reach the finish line? A lot, actually. In many ways, this is when your communications matter most. Thanks to your organized approach, staff have all the information they need, they’ve taken every necessary step to be prepared, and now it’s daily life. This is when you can showcase the benefits in action, and feature the small wins and the fun staff stories. In other words, it’s time to celebrate.
One of the hardest aspects of change is resistance. People always resist change—it’s our nature. Even the most thoughtful and well-timed communication plan can’t alleviate this. When resistance crops up, don’t be discouraged. Continue to communicate and stay firm on the path you’ve started. The exact time that people accept, buy in to, and start championing change is different for everyone. But when change is presented as a collective journey that gives people time to work through their personal processes, almost everyone gets there in the end and most will not only accept it, but embrace it.