There is a school of thought, largely found amongst those who see managing change as just another part of a line manager's portfolio of responsibilities, that if the change is communicated clearly enough, the change is being managed.
At one end of this spectrum are the command and control types who rely on the 'Just Do It' email from the top. Assuming that the combination of a hierarchic 'Shock and Awe' effect coupled with the threat of dire consequences for non-compliance will do the trick.
At the other end of the spectrum are those who take a more 'Marketing' approach aimed at selling the change to the organisation through a constant bombardment of newsletters, posters, videos, desk drops - and don't forget the project branded pens, mugs and stress balls!
Both tactics may be perfectly valid as part of a well thought through change management strategy but are never enough on their own. Our shared experience says that whether it's 'tell' or 'sell', a communication led approach to landing transformational change is unlikely to succeed because it's based on a premise of push rather than pull.
Creating a context in which change is accepted and adopted requires active engagement at every level of the organisation from the sponsor to the end user. This can be enabled by:
Effective change communication is certainly a product of this more holistic model for change management but cannot substitute for it. All of which mitigates for a change approach that underpins the full lifecycle of the project and is fully integrated with the overall project strategy and plan.
With thanks to Lucy Harley, Julian Earl, Alex Cairns, Nic Vine and Pankaj Chaudhary for their thoughtful contributions to this article.