The third dimension of the change: change the communication processes
In the shared and participatory management’ organisations the diffusion of information has the same function of the blood flow in the human body. Without communication of information and data, people and teams cannot make decisions in a professional way and therefore it cannot be any assumption of the responsibility.
Communication has even more relevance when deep and extensive processes of change are in place. In these situations, people go through moments of uncertainty, have expectations to satisfy and fear to lose what they have already acquired. People need information- Communication is one of the toughest issues in organizations. It is an area that is most frequently complained about by employees during organizational change.
Therefore, the management must:
- Communicate in real time
- Communicate what you know with transparency
- Dedicate the necessary time to communicate
- Communicate using all the available channels: speaking, writing, training, focus groups, videos, training, intranet, business print, etc…
The purpose is to make people feel protagonist of the change and to make feel them involved and active in reaching out the objectives of the changes. One of the most common mistakes is to communicate only when there is positive news: the credibility of the whole change fails. Credibility weakens even when who listens has the perception that the person who talks is uncertain, not transparent or gives fake news.
It should be reminded what says a famous Italian sociologist, Franco Ferrarotti: “Some time ago, not so far, people said communicate with, on the contrary nowadays they say with incredible ease, communicate to and it does not seem necessary expecting an answer”.
In order to share the responsibility of the change, the most effective way of communication is the dialogue between people, since it arises consensus and trust. We do not have to forget that people take responsibility in an easier way when there is a strong emotional involvement, such as the passion, the common sensation of membership, the participation in a difficult but not impossible challenge.
Meetings between people and in small groups make up the most favourable opportunities not only to share the vision, the purposes and the reasons of the change, but also to share the changes:
- In the contents of their work (what they will have to do);
- In the way of working (how they will have to work);
- In the relations between colleagues and partners (who they will have to deal with).
The phases of communication, discussion, negotiation and debate are necessary in order to reduce uncertainties, avoid to arise and spread fake news.
In many European countries, trade unions carry out prominent actions in the definition and realisation of the processes of change. The meetings between collaborators have two more purposes to:
- Involve people in the planning of the change;
- Identify the main steps of the implementation.
The implementation of the change becomes easier when it is implemented step by step, when actions that can be carried out in the short-middle term and with measurable and achievable results. In this way people gradually acquire familiarity with new processes and new way of working necessary in order to carry out in an effective way their own role.
It is of great importance to be able to acquire the consensus of middle and seasoned managers and technicians: when the most influential people, in terms of professionality and experience, support the change, they become active parts also in the communication and the trust and motivation of the entire business population increases. Those who are not completely certain, are more willing to accept the change.
People share responsibilities when they develop the awareness of the importance and the urgency of the change. In order to reach this purpose, companies use a new communication technique: the storytelling. Storytelling means communicate the experiences realized by people and teams and communicate them within a wider community.
What can you do with the storytelling within a company? According to one of the greatest Italian experts of storytelling, Franco Fontana, these are its main purposes:
- To share specific purposes;
- To give meaning to daily actions in order to transmit a motivation push;
- To create an identity (of the company, of the individual or of the team) in order to favour a greater and better identification;
- To maintain the memory (individual and collective) in order to realise a knowledge continuity and a behaviour orientation.
- To direct the company’s social opinion: stories make laugh, cry, fear, stories generate hope and many other feelings, through the identification and the projection;
- To create and safeguard culture, values and behaviours which have effects in the daily events;
- To support the vision and the planning of the future through a continuous repetition of stories, with the reference to both internal and external subjects.
It should be highlighted that every story produces other stories: in this way the knowledge exchanges, the critical thinking and the research of new interpretations and points of view about a problem and/or topic, are promoted. Nowadays it is widely widespread the Digital Storytelling, that is the narration through digital devices.
Every story in order to be incisive must have a precise structure following 5 principal steps:
1. Has to clarify who, where, when;
2. Identifies the event that modifies the initial balance;
3. Makes the protagonist reacts against difficulties;
4. Presents the started actions and the occurred results;
5. Discovers how the protagonist, the team and the company change.
The new information technologies (internet, intranet, etc…) allow to create social networks within the companies. In a more accurate way, we can say that new information technologies allow to create new “communities of practice”: they are virtual areas in which people, who cooperate between them to find solutions to problems.
A community of practice is composed of a group of people who:
- Have in common the same interests, technical abilities and know how;
- Help each other in the sharing of knowledge, experiences and good practices in order to solve problems which rise on the job;
- Intervene in an active and collaborative way on equal base;
- Enhance competences in real time;
- Overcome the geographical, cultural and hierarchical barriers.
Shell has been one of the first companies to create communities of practice in order to make a network with the operators of the oil platforms in all over the world.
The active participants to the communities of practice, increase their sense of professional identity and create a network that support the change of the operational and management processes, since they are often recognized as subject matter experts.
The new means of communication, e.g. WhatsApp, are an additional innovation source in the communication processes. A lot of companies use WhatsApp in order to communicate. The employees (for instance, in the project teams) often prefer to use WhatsApp rather than the company’s official mail in order to communicate and widespread information.
When companies integrate new means of communication, pc, tablet, artificial intelligence, app, an interesting breakthrough takes place not only in the communication, but also in the decision processes. This integration makes it easier to implement shared and participatory management’ organisations. In the factories the first experiments have been carried out to optimise the maintenance and reduce the operation machines stops.
Barilla, the Italian pasta maker leader, experienced a web and mobile app which allows to make decisions on the maintenance of the plant: the interventions are shared in real time by the workers who can exchange information and share multimedia. The app has already been introduced in many factories. In the first term of activity the innovation has produced almost 100.000 posts, hundreds of thousands of comments and more than 3.000 videos. Moreover, the introduction of the new app contributed to the reduction of the food waste occurring during the manufacturing processes too. For the future, it is expected the connection of the machines in the Internet of Things modality, carrying out the contents’ sentiment analysis and the machine learning to highlight the recurring/predictable phenomena. A virtual assistance devices will be implemented. Within 2018 more than 2700 people and 18 factories in the world will be connected. Previously the process required long periods, people had to deal with an imprecise communication of the information and with the lack of supervision and historization of activities and best practices. Interventions were managed with paper registers, phone calls, blackboards and daily meetings in order to be undergone to massive and periodic financial reporting through SAP. Moreover, workers anticipated the problems through WhatsApp with their personal mobile phones, producing confusion in the distinction of the single requests and compromising the central control.