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A Reflection On The Use of Communication Plans

The Situation

A long time ago, in a company somewhere far away, the CIO decided to buy a certain kind of software.

The program would replace a legacy system. One that was reliable, if clunky and sometimes slow.

A small but powerful faction hated the idea altogether. And every time the subject came up, they would shout the concept down. “Who needs this? We’re used to what we have!!!”

But in meetings too low-level for the executives to attend, other voices could be heard. Complaining loudly and often. “Everybody else uses this already! What the heck is taking us so freaking long???”

The Choice

The CIO decided to implement the software, but wasn’t sure how to introduce it. 

So the head of communications provided her with two choices.

Implementation Plan Option #1: “Don’t Ask So Many Questions”

  1. Send an email to all employees, informing them of the update.
  2. Push the software to all computers on the network.
  3. Prompt employees on boot-up to take an automated training course, then certify completion upon passing a quiz.
  4. Establish that employees can contact the general help desk if they have problems using the software.
  5. Stop communicating.

Implementation Plan Option #2: “Offer An Explanation”

  1. Establish a Clear Priority: Send a communication to employees emphasizing the general need to improve quality while conserving resources. 
  2. Add Numbers to the Goal: Provide a relevant estimated savings for them, e.g. “when this is done, you can use the time savings on administrative work to engage in training”
  3. Strategy: Explain how the new technology will be implemented, e.g. allowing a small group of employee volunteers to pilot test it for three months. Train these “super users” to conduct regular learning clinics both one-on-one and in group sessions. After that, continue growing the user support base until the community of employees is teaching itself how to use the software and how to take advantage of workarounds, tips and tricks. Plan for a full rollout over approximately two years.
  4. Action: Implement the plan. Make technical support easily and widely available. Recognize and reward the “super users,” and provide small tips and progress reports regularly. Establish a feedback line for bugs and complaints, and allow other users to respond to them.
  5. Audit: Have a third party within the organization serve as “referee” after the short-term trial period, reviewing results and providing preliminary results to review. Incorporate those results into the longer-term action plan. Have a third party, internal or external, also review the result of the initiative in two years, to determine if additional adjustments need to be made. 

Questions For You

  • Which of these approaches should the CIO adopt? Why?
  • If you wanted to persuade your organization to adopt a more collaborative style, how might you do that?
  • And vice versa, if you think your organization needs to be more structured and hierarchical, how would you do that as well?

No Conclusions?

I wrote this post as a reflection on something we often forget.

Number one, no matter what you’re doing, having a plan in advance is important.

And number two, when you conceive that plan, remember there is always more than one “right way.”


By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author’s own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain.

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