What kinds of change do we see currently happening in the K-12 education space? At the moment, perhaps one of the biggest is the automation of many paper-based processes while using Cloud platforms to automate these processes. This includes student facing- applications, as well as back office programs including procurement and payroll.
So, how’s it going?
The Districts that experience this change in a positive manner, tend to reach out early to their stakeholders to garner support for the transformation. Some are concerned about saying too much too quickly, however, we see the most successful Districts opting for transparency - early and often. Reaching out early requires planning by the District’s leadership in order to “think through” the messaging to stakeholders before distributing an email blast or holding a meeting in an open forum. Leaders who tend to earn trust and credibility with stakeholders quickly, are honest about their vision of the project, as well as what they do and don’t know.
What does message planning look like?
Effective message planning requires defining audiences and how best to communicate with them. For example, one audience group may include office admins in the schools who run daily building operations. They may prefer to hear from a union rep or a chief of operations rather than the District superintendent. This same audience group may also prefer receiving messages in an open forum as opposed to emails. Regardless, it is important to define audiences’ preferences, upfront, so leaders can plan on how best to deliver upcoming messages to each, unique audience.
Another important characteristic of sound change communications is to be consistently recurrent. Too often, we see senior leaders who “launch and leave” a project, never to be seen or heard from, again. We find, the most effective change leaders are those who are frequently visible online and, in person. They reiterate the key message points - again and again - to reaffirm the intent of the transformation.
Who are these messengers in your District?
That’s your call, but based upon what we see at CherryRoad, we recommend it’s the most credible messenger for a given audience and they should be authentic, meaning “natural”. Change leaders don’t need to be overly charismatic, just transparent about the intent and status of the project, open to listening to feedback from stakeholders, and comfortable with not having all the answers.
The best change leaders we work with seem to be always positive and persistent. They expect some bumps in the road and are honest about it with their stakeholders. One change leader said she feels she “needs to communicate more when those bumps are the hardest”, as she fears creating confusion and chaos during challenging times, if she stays silent.
So, stay positive and commit to constantly communicating with all your stakeholder audiences. Let us know how we can help you plan your messaging and stakeholder engagement activities.
About the author:
Dr. Jeff Bailey has 30 years of consulting experience focused on helping organizations improve people, processes, and productivity. He has gained this experience as a military leader, a project manager, a professor, and mostly as an organizational change advisor. He worked with senior military leaders as a communications officer with the 1st Infantry Division planning and coordinating the use communications assets in fluid battlefield scenarios. Since the early 1990s he has worked with dozens of public and private organizations helping them develop managers into leaders and to adjust business processes to enhance operations and overall productivity. Dr. Bailey has been with CherryRoad for more than a decade working on the largest systems implementation projects as a project manager and as a change management advisor. He works with client leaders in helping them be the voice and face of change. Dr. Bailey also helps leaders communicate and engage with large groups of stakeholders and future system users early and often. As a professor, Dr. Bailey teaches a variety of topics related to organizational behavior and change.