A manager is reviewing planning documents.

Editor’s Note: This article on change communication was originally written in 2015. Since the Covid-19 pandemic we’ve seen an increase need for information on how to plan and communicate change. We have updated this article, along with other articles in the series.

Effective and sustainable organizational change isn’t possible without good communication. Change communication doesn’t occur magically. In fact, communicating change requires in-depth planning by leaders to ensure it is executed well to all relevant stakeholders.

We previously discussed how Bayside Community Libraries implemented Brighter Strategies’ Model for Change Communication in its planning and people systems. In this article, we want to take a deeper dive into the communication.

Change communication in planning

Bayside communicated using the following guidelines.

1. Explain why the change will be implemented.

Bayside’s leaders gathered data on the changing landscape of content consumption. They found declining customer use of hard copy content and growth of digital content.  This allowed them to forecast trends of future use. Leaders shared the information with all stakeholder groups.

2. Explain the purpose of the change.

When communicating the purpose of the change, Bayside emphasized its mission. This showed stakeholders that adapting the traditional business model to evolve with new customer preferences would benefit the nonprofit’s overarching purpose. Bayside’s mission—“A book in every hand”—was upheld with the addition of more digital content and the necessary training to educate the community how to use e-publications.

3. Communicate the strategic objectives the change will help to meet.

Bayside had three main change objectives. They printed these objectives for internal and external stakeholders to review, and communicated them via newsletters and wallet-sized cards for employees. Bayside highlighted the words, Swap-Train-Promote (STP) to keep the objectives simple and easy to remember.

  • Swap one-half of existing hard copy publications for e-reader editions.
  • Train staff to show customers how to consume content electronically.
  • Promote benefits of new electronic content to the community at large.

4. Create measurable objectives to determine whether or not the strategic objectives have been met.

Part of planning for change includes setting measurable objectives at the beginning of the initiative. These goals help guide the change management process. The goals also identify what success looks like, and keep you focused on the end game.

The acronym S.M.A.R.T. describes well-written objectives. Such objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound. For example, Bayside set the following SMART goals for its first objective.

  • Swap one-half of existing hard copy publications for e-reader editions.
    • By January, identify which hard copy titles will be eliminated.
    • By March, identify to which charities these books will be donated.
    • By May, choose the software conversion platform to create e-reader versions of the titles.
    • Divide the conversion work evenly among the three technology committee members, with a goal to convert titles completely within six months, by November.

Change communication for people

With planning communication underway, Bayside focused on its people using the following guidelines.

1. List the relevant individuals working on the project.

Bayside gathered a small team of change leaders within the nonprofit. This group served as the change management taskforce guiding all facets of strategic communication. At least two members of each stakeholder group (Board of Directors, employees, funders, and general public) were part of the team.

2. List any other relevant individuals or organizations (refer to list of internal and external stakeholders).

The change team identified all stakeholders invested in the success of the change effort and built a network of ambassadors within the Bayside Community Libraries network. It focused major communications on these “change champions,” who then helped to disseminate that information to broader audiences.

3. List the roles and responsibilities of all those involved in the change management project, from most influential to least influential.

From this list of change champions, Bayside identified each individual’s role and responsibilities in the communication process and mapped them out per the below chart.

Team member Role Responsibilities