One cannot underestimate the importance of communications in the deployment of the PO. As in any other change process, there is a need to explain the change, calm the fears of those who could be adversely affected, and get people to buy into the proposed changes.
The communication strategy must do the following:
Identify the different audiences, their information needs, their interests, and their backgrounds in order to provide them with a relevant and understandable message;
Decide how the information will be disseminated (i.e., meetings, presentations, Web sites, newsletters, external speakers, etc.).
People must understand why the organization needs to change. If the need for change and its purpose is not understood or intuited, people will at best temporarily comply; they will not engage in the intellectual and psychological effort required to change established routines and preconceptions. Whatever the strategy chosen, it should address the following questions:
What is wrong with the status quo?
What is being proposed?
How the proposed changes solve the problems associated with the current situation?
Why employees should care?
When employees will be affected, immediately or some time in the future?
The need for change can be conveyed by selling the pain of the status quo, or by resorting to the promise of the desired state. Different audiences respond to different arguments. In my experience what works best is a combination of glimpses of the golden future with flashbacks of well-known in-house episodes to which people can easily relate. Table 8.2 shows the typical content of a communications plan.
An important, and often forgotten, aspect of any communication strategy is to check that the message is getting across and properly interpreted. It is important to solicit feedback and measure the impact of PO communications to determine what is being understood and recalled, how messages are received, how receivers feel about them, and what receivers do with the information.