Strategic Outreach

Managing Change Via Communications

Length Matters

If you let your CEO send an emailed announcement to everyone with over 600 words, readership will not be optimum. But the low-readership penalty for 800 words or more is harsher. If you think that the only result will be that the employee may merely skim it or stop reading after the first few paragraphs, think again. They won’t read any of it. They skip it.  Gone.  Most figure they don’t have the time to tackle it, and you’ve just lost the chance to impart any information.

Research shows that if most readers look at a page with 8 or 9 dense paragraphs of type, their willingness to read it at all goes down significantly, compared to a communication of 5 paragraphs. This is especially true when major change is swirling around your organization and people are time-stressed.

Here’s what the experts recommend, and I can attest to this advice based on my own experience:

Target length is 400 words. This will take the average reader two minutes to read. So given the 3-second average time people spend previewing “general distribution” work emails, 100 words is even better. Some internal communicators aim for 300 words.

You simply can’t let a long communication go out to staff levels that, for example, explains a re-organization in detail and then profiles four or five new leaders and their roles. You should, instead, just summarize the re-org and the “why,” then link to their profiles in deeper content/resources on your intranet.

You’re looking at about 285 words in this blog post, so a 300 to 400 word target for your internal communication is not much longer.  My next post will look at research on optimal sentence and paragraph length.

yard-stick

January 20, 2017 Posted by | Change Management, Corporate Communications, health care communications, healthcare integrations, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Communications during integration of hospitals and medical groups: Lessons Learned

Here’s what I’ve learned from directing internal communications to manager and all-employee levels during integration of their hospital or medical group organization into our large health care system.  I’ve done two of each.

  • Develop an over-arching communication plan incorporating all HR, IT and other work streams to ensure consistent messaging to impacted populations (theme, tone, format, terminology).
    • Emphasize positive outcome/future for both organizations
    • Acknowledge short-term inconvenience during change (transparency)
    • Establish channel/vehicle for regular updates to leaders/managers
  • Use a consistent message structure that clarifies what will not change, what will change “now” (i.e. at go-live or start date), and what will change later.
  • Stop the bombardment of one-off email communications about individual aspects of the integration; instead, rely on a weekly rolled-up update (e-newsletter format preferred) that provides everything managers need to know about what’s happening when, and action items. Another version could go to all employees.
  • Equip executive leaders and managers to deliver key messages /information to their employees, always providing clear “actions required” of both the managers and the employees.
  • Align with union contract negotiation timing and politics; fully clarify what applies to each group.
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Kadlec Regional Medical Center in southeast Washington; we integrated all employees there into Providence HR, IT and other systems/services in 2015.

December 27, 2016 Posted by | Acquisition Communications, B-to-B Case Studies, Change Management, Corporate Communications, Employee Integration, health care communications, healthcare integrations, IT Process Change, My Career | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Look at the Load

The list of Top 10 types of resistance in the post below is missing one big, fat factor that can squash the whole change-management equation.  The Load.  Major implementations occur in the context of all other organizational priorities competing for resources and people’s attention.  Change is also more fragile and risky if there is a history of bad implementation experiences with lingering memories of all the stress caused by poor planning and execution.

In the health care industry, doctors, nurses and other clinicians have faced a relentless onslaught of change.  Caring for patients every single day is their primary focus, but every time they turn around from the bedside or the exam room, they are confronted with another expectation. Among them, learning new documentation technology (electronic health record, ICD-10, computerized order entry), on top of time-consuming quality, safety and patient satisfaction initiatives, revised workflows and processes – it goes on and on.

Defining the climate for change is essential.  It determines organizational readiness and strategies for multi-layered sponsorship for the change.  And of course it guides the communication strategy – timing, messaging (regarding critical needs and priorities) and frequency.

elephant sits

July 24, 2015 Posted by | Change Management, Corporate Communications | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pushing Out Email Communications: Definitely an INTERRUPTION Tactic.

Let’s call it what it is – an interruption. In a corporate setting, sending announcements and other general communications to large groups via email adds to the oad of email traffic flying around in thick torrents every day, especially for mid-level managers.

When these are sent, the goal is to get the email with this important corporate news or “action item” into a queue along with one-to-one (and one-to-few) emails in the manager’s inbox and vie for her/his attention.  Most managers reluctantly allow this distraction and check their email several to many times per day, because they also need to engage in team email conversations and requests via email, amidst the general info blasts that they may or may not read.

Update scrren capture Our once-a-week roll-up of action items, need-to-know items, etc. replaces a constant barrage of single-item emailed memos.

Here at Providence, a 5-state health care system, we’re beginning to train core leaders to rely on a once-a week roll-up of key information, an emailed update with short summaries that include links to the full announcement and other informational resources.  They know they can get all news and action items from the regional and system offices in a single weekly newsletter, with notices divided into three sections:  “Take Action!” (when they have to do something), “Need to Know,” and “Other Updates.”

That’s how it works today. The wave of the future: Have managers and staff take responsibility for selecting non-interruptive channels (RSS feeds, for instance) to receive segmented-by-category information. Instead of randomly-arriving as interruptive email, information is accumulated in folders (not in the inbox) or via a browser

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Corporate Communications | , , , , , | Leave a comment

IT Change Management Requires Good Communications

Information Technology swells and recedes as a separate business entity with changing corporate structures.  A number of Fortune 500 companies are eliminating their overarching CIO positions and moving IT to the Business Unit level.  In some cases,  an “IT Leadership Group” is ordained to create standards, allocate resources, etc. The fear when doing this is that Business Unit level IT silos will be controlled by people who lack overall corporate perspective and have limited accountability.

Sounds like a corporate communications opportunity for folks like me who have been involved in IT process change.  I was recently part of the opposite situation: the large corporation I was working with had centralized IT after years of Business Unit IT autonomy.  The upside was that IT was being treated as a strategic bottom-line-enhancer.  The new penalty, however, was that the Business Units felt that they weren’t being listened to – that IT crammed canned solutions down their throat without regard to their individual B.U. needs and requirements.

And so it goes.  Clarifying IT missions and getting employees on board to make it all work is a fascinating endeavor, and I’ve had the pleasure of working on this equation both internally and externally.

It’s true during process change (effecting staff) as well as organizational change that impacts management: it can be difficult for IT managers to fully embrace the communication part of the equation. As Management Leadership guru Jim Clemmer puts it: “A direct and positive correlation exists between the results obtained and the amount of time spent upfront helping everyone understand the need for the change and training to help them deal with the changes.”

Terse content (i.e. messaging), convincing and to the point, is a key element.

January 12, 2011 Posted by | B2B messaging, Change Management, Content-Inspired Conversations, Corporate Communications, IT Process Change | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment