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Change Management Communications Planning

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The following tutorial is an excerpt from the Change Management Best Practices Benchmarking Report. This study involved 288 companies from 51 countries, and the following excerpt is from the communications section of the report.

Communications planning

Development of a communication plan was the most common task for change management teams. When ask about communication practices and the frequency of communications, project teams tended to communicate less frequently than they thought they should have during the project (see Figure 1).


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Figure 1 – Communication frequency

Nearly 40% of study participants indicated that weekly communications provided the desired frequency, with about one-third indicating either several times a week or daily.

Communication methods

The table below is a complete list of the methods participants used to communicate.

Brown bag lunches

Bulletin boards

Cafeteria postings

Cascading communication trees

Change booklets

Corporate newsletters (feature section)


Department or enterprise meetings



Focus groups

Frequently asked questions

Internal paper memos

Intranet pop-ups


One-on-one meetings



Project newsletters


Team meetings

Town Hall meetings

Training courses




Website (Intranet)

Word of mouth


Table 1 – Communication methods

Participants indicated that face-to-face communications were the most effective. Face-to-face interactions included:

  • group and team meetings
  • presentations and demonstrations
  • one-on-one discussions

Many participants also identified email and intranet websites as effective methods. However, one participant wrote that employees “did not read emails (we all get too many!).”

Several other themes emerged in relation to effective communication. First, communication should be open and “risk free” where employees can ask questions. Second, different types of communication are better depending on the message. One participant wrote that the best methods of communicating were:

“Face to face (for effect); email (for efficiency)”



Who should deliver the message?

Participants were fairly split over who was the ideal sender of change management messages as shown in Figure 15. The top two senders indicated by participants were:

  • the employee’s supervisor (to deliver messages that directly impact the employee)
  • CEO/president (to deliver messages about the business drivers and business vision)


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Figure 2 – Ideal message deliverer

Editor’s note: The top two answers (CEO/President and supervisor) show an interesting dichotomy. The two individuals selected most often are the closest to and farthest away from the front-line employees in the organizational structure. A second implication results from the amount and type of control of these two particular individuals. The supervisor has the most control over the direction of the employee’s daily activities, while the CEO / president has the most control over the direction of the business.

Important messages to communicate

The most important messages to communicate to impacted employees fell into two categories:

1.       Messages about the change

  • the current situation and the rationale for the change
  • a vision of the organization after the change takes place
  • the basics of what is changing, how it will change, and when it will change
  • the expectation that change will happen and is not a choice
  • status updates on the implementation of the change, including success stories

2.       Messages about how the change will impact the employee

  • the impact of the change on the day-to-day activities of the employee (WIIFM – What’s in it for me?)
  • implications of the change on job security (Will I have a job?)
  • specific behaviors and activities expected from the employee, including support of the change
  • procedures for getting help and assistance during the change


What aspects of communication contributed the most to your programs success?

Responses regarding the most successful aspect of communication varied. Participants discussed both the type (how it was delivered) and the specific message and characteristic (what was delivered) of effective communication.

In relation to the delivery of the message, participants overwhelmingly indicated that direct, face-to-face communication was most effective. Direct communications were seen as successful for conveying messages about the need for change, providing details about specific roles and expectations, describing the future state and answering specific questions.

In addition to how the message was delivered, participants provided characteristics of communications that contributed to success. According to participants, successful communications were:

  • honest – “Honesty even when the consequences were possibly negative”
  • frequent and constant throughout the entire program
  • consistent
  • open, transparent and safe

Participants also stated that communications, when done properly and delivered by the right source, were direct evidence of the support and commitment to change by executives and sponsors.


What would you do differently with regard to communication?

Participants indicated that the top five changes they would make regarding their communications were:

1.       More communications (more frequent).

2.       Begin communications sooner in the project.

3.       More face-to-face communications – some participants felt that they relied too heavily on email, not recognizing the importance of a personal approach.

4.       More communication from executive sponsors and senior managers.

5.       More about the impact of the change on employees – answering the questions how will this affect me and what is in it for me.

Feedback mechanisms

The following three methods were the most used by participants to collect feedback from employees: (see Figure 3):

  • team question and answer sessions
  • email
  • individual question and answer sessions

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Figure 3 – Feedback mechanisms


Communications were viewed as a vital component to the overall change management program to build awareness of the need for change and to create knowledge about the future state. For more information on communication planning, see the Change Management Toolkit.



Coming next - Part 4 of the Using ADKAR series - The Power of Knowledge


Detailed Resources for Managing Change

Change Management Toolkit: a comprehensive change management process, includes specific sections on sizing your change management effort, conducting change assessments, communication planning, training development, sponsor roadmaps, and reinforcing change.


Change leaders, consultants and change management team members - use templates, assessments, guidelines, examples and worksheets that will help you implement change management
Best Practices in Change Management: 426 companies share experiences in managing change and lessons on how to build great executive sponsorship. The report makes it easy to learn change management best practices and discover the mistakes to avoid leading change.


Change leaders, consultants and change management team members - learn what is working for others, what is not, and what mistakes to avoid - includes team and sponsor activity lists. Includes success factors, methodology, role of top management, communications, team structure and more.
Change Management: the People Side of Change: introductory guide to change management -  an excellent primer and catalyst for change leadership with best practices from Prosci's latest research and case studies.


Change leaders, executives and managers - learn the 'why,' 'how,' and 'what' of change management. "Change Management is like a driving school for change agents."  This 'quick read' includes the ADKAR model and the Prosci change management process.
Change Management Guide for Managers and Supervisors: complete with team and individual coaching activities, best practices findings and frequently asked questions. Managers and supervisors - a guide specifically designed for managers and supervisors dealing with change. This tool is ideal for managers who are directly dealing with employees facing change. Use with the Employee's Survival Guide to Change and the Change Management Toolkit.
Employee's Survival Guide to Change: a handbook to help employees survive and thrive during change. Employees facing change - answers frequently asked questions and empowers employees to be effective change agents with the ADKAR model.

How-to-guide.jpg (4140 bytes) How to deploy change management - a getting started guide
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