This post was originally published on November 13, 2015. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the topic of communicating organizational change has become very timely, so we have updated the post slightly. If you are struggling with changes in your organization, or how to communicate them, please take advantage of our free one-hour consultations, we’re here to help. For more about change management, please download our e-book, Change Management: The Role of Strategic Communication.

In a previous blog post, we looked at how individuals and organizations work through change as a result of disruptions in the workplace. In this article, we walk you through a fictional case study. Imagine Bayside Community Libraries.

The Change

Bayside Community Libraries is a network of local libraries that has experienced tremendous change in the past decade. As e-readers including Kindles and iPads have become more widespread among the general public, Bayside has seen a stark decline in its customer base, and rapidly changing consumer needs overall.

With less demand for Bayside’s traditional hard copy publications and a resulting difficulty justifying the existence of three libraries in the network, the Board of Directors decided to close down one of the libraries and revamp the business model for the remaining two. The new business model primarily focuses on digital content through the following organizational objectives:

  • 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.

The Change Curve at Bayside

As predicted by the Change Curve, Bayside employees initially had a difficult time dealing with this widespread change, but eventually grew to accept it and even move on. They reacted per the following stages:

  • Stage One: Denial—Surviving employees felt shell-shocked when they realized some of their peers had been let go.
  • Stage Two: Anger—Denial turned to anger as employees realized that not only did they lose some of their friends, but they had to answer to new work objectives, too.
  • Stage Three: Bargaining—Employees began proposing alternative scenarios to their employers, such as: “If we keep Library #3 open, I’ll help to transform two-thirds of the hard copy content in my library into digital form.”
  • Stage Four: Depression—Some long-standing employees quit as a result of the major changes.
  • Stage Five: Acceptance—Other employees decided to embrace the change and volunteered to lead teams to implement the new objectives.
  • Stage Six: Moving On—As weeks passed, Bayside survived the change, and the two remaining libraries began to transform the nonprofit’s traditional business model per the new strategic objectives.

The Change Cycle at Bayside

While employees were working through their individual change reactions, Bayside began to Unfreeze, Change, and Refreeze at an organizational level.

Stage One: Unfreeze

Bayside knew it needed to retain only its most committed, forward-thinking employees if the change were going to stick. Leaders decided to eliminate an entire library and re-allocated staff accordingly. Months before the reduction in force, the organization began investing in the development of the identified high-potential staff, strategically drawing them into their new mission and vision for the network.

Stage Two: Change

As disgruntled employees left and those who were committed to the new vision became ambassadors for the change, acceptance emerged. The indifferent employees in the middle—neither angry nor enthusiastic—began to accept the change as their “new normal.”

Stage Three: Refreeze

Leaders allowed some time for this new normal to stick and then began training employees on the evolving business model. Rebranding teams emerged, led by enthusiastic staff (called “change champions”), and employees as a whole gradually grew more excited about the future of Bayside.

The role of strategic communication

Now that you understand what change is and the process it entails, it’s time to think about how to strategically manage change in your organization through communication. The purpose of communication in change management is to move individuals and the organization through The Change Cycle in such a way that individuals embrace change, and the organization experiences sustainable results.

Managing stakeholder communication

In the context of change management, a stakeholder is defined as anyone who has a vested interest in the change, such as managers who will lead change, employees who must help to implement change, and clients who will be impacted by changed products or services. The change management process affects each stakeholder group differently.

By understanding stakeholders’ unique needs and targeting communication efforts to those needs, you will improve your change initiative’s chance of success.

Step One: Identify your stakeholders

Think of all of the people who are affected by the change, have influence or power over the change, and have an interest in the results of the change. These individuals and organizations include both internal and external stakeholders.

For Bayside, these major stakeholder groups include Board of Directors, current staff, funding sources, and the general public.

Step Two: Understand your stakeholders

Analyze how each stakeholder group is likely to feel about and react to change so you know how to communicate effectively with them.
Bayside identified the following pain points for each of its stakeholder groups:

  • Board of Directors: This governance group initiated the change effort at Bayside and is invested deeply in its success.
    • Pain point: Can we effectively manage this change effort and see it to completion?
  • Current staff: At Bayside, this group cares about how the change affects their livelihood.
    • Pain point: How will new a new business model make my life harder as an employee?
  • Funding sources: These entities want to know how their money is being used to fund Bayside Community Libraries.
    • Pain point: If hard copy books will no longer be purchased, what does the new pricing model look like? What is the value proposition of providing more electronic content to the public?
  • General public: The masses care about their comfort, even when it comes to the public library’s resources.
    • Pain point: Will my personal preferences for consuming content be affected for better or worse?

Step Three: Communicate with your stakeholders with the help of Brighter Strategies’s Model for Change Communication

Planning

  • Explain why the change will be implemented
  • Explain the purpose of the change
  • Describe the strategic objectives the change will help to meet
  • Create measurable objectives to determine whether or not the strategic objectives have been met

People

  • List the relevant individuals working on the project
  • List any other relevant individuals or organizations (refer to list of internal and external stakeholders)
  • List the roles and responsibilities of all those involved in the change management project, from most influential to least influential

Process

  • Describe the project’s scope, any changes occurring to the scope, and how the change management plan applies
  • List all of the steps necessary
  • Describe the process by which the change will be managed
  • Explain how internal process changes will affect an organization’s external stakeholders

Performance

  • Describe any tools needed to implement the desired change
  • Document the new budget for implementing the project change
  • Perform a risk analysis for implementing any change in your project management plan
  • Create the change management schedule

The next blog article will describe Bayside’s completion of the planning and people components of the above model, and the final article in the series concludes with a discussion of the process and performance pieces. More to come soon!