The second instance of change done really well was again in the Telecommunications industry, while I believe there were some lost opportunities with how technology was fully engaged in communications leading up the change decision, the communications done following the decision were done very well.
The change itself was difficult, the potential was very high for a large number of people to lose their jobs and everyone knew it. The change was off-shoring a portion of the business, unfortunately there is little a company can do in communications when these kind of investigations take place. There was open dialogue, however without a decision there wasn’t much to talk about. The critical part for myself in observing this change was the way the decision was communicated.
For those not familiar with these kind of changes, you should be aware that the lead up to these changes happens well before the wider company is told. Not Disclosure Agreements are standard; individuals across different business units are spoken to directly and brought onto the project to investigate the proposal – often external parties are utilized to provide additional expertise outside of the executive ranks, very few people (relative to the size of the organization) know anything is happening. Potential vendors are found, the vendors premises are visited, numbers are run and rerun, public relations consequences are discussed, and significant investment is made into investigating the consequences, and profitability of such a decision.
Just after midday, managers and directly impacted employees where called into a meeting with the CEO, with offices around the country teleconferenced into the meeting. Virtually at every meeting site, an executive of the company was present. The meeting was short, telling us that the off shoring was going live and significant numbers of employees would lose their jobs doesn’t take long to announce. From my perception of the CEO and executive staff they knew that this was a hard decision, they were making significant numbers of employees redundant – at a time when not a lot of jobs were around. The face to face helped, the take home message we were left with was simply this:
“by 4pm today, everyone in this company is to know that this decision has been made, no one is to find out through reading the newspaper the next day. Go back to your work areas and tell your staff, if you have staff on leave, get their phone numbers and call to let them know.”
Lets face it, this was a crappy day for a lot of staff, and a crappy day for a small township that was losing a significant employer (the second largest in the area if I recall correctly). The ownership that was taken in communicating this was absolute; there was no doubt that everyone was to be told of this decision. I never heard of any instance where an employee didn’t find out on that day, it was an outstanding effort to mobilize managers across a large workforce to ensure everyone knows within an hour or so after the decision being announced.
The take home message for organizational leaders, own the decision. Announcing a decision like this is hard; don’t get someone else to deliver the message that you should – especially the media (the media is not your friend).