After our youngest child went off to college this fall, we decided to convert his bedroom into an office. (My current basement office was twice decimated by rain water leaking through a crack in the foundation. My office looks like a Turkish prison cell, complete with bare and cracked concrete walls and exposed wood beams that once supported paneling or drywall.)
An attempt to remove a lofted bed from the bedroom proved to be an unsolvable geometry problem. How did this get in here? Can we get it out without disassembling it?
The situation became a metaphor for understanding clients with marketing and communications challenges. Communications professionals and organizational leaders often identify a strategy or tactic that’s no longer effective and needs to be discontinued. Or, they might decide to shift accountability for projects. But eliminating a once-successful campaign, publication or event can be more complicated and difficult than simply pulling the plug. A deliberate and methodical approach might be needed for a successful change.
It was a struggle to remember if we moved the bed into the room or assembled it inside the room. After we concluded it was assembled in the room, we knew removal required disassembly. In staying with our metaphor, the following steps helped us succeed and might assist communicators with change initiatives:
Find the right tools: We needed an Allen wrench of a specific size to remove more than a dozen screws from the bed. When changing a strategy or tactic, you might need to identify the best approach along with some alternatives. For instance, would online distribution of an annual report be more effective than printing and mailing?
Be mindful of timing: Disassembling the bed took much longer than anticipated and caused some stress. When your team is planning a transition or change initiative, always have a deadline but include extra time for problems, delays, or scheduling conflicts.
Keep moving: We needed to move the bed’s pieces out of the room to begin preparations for painting. Your organization needs to continually communicate throughout the change process and celebrate completions. These steps can also prevent a less-desirable solution from emerging to fill a void.
This article first appeared in the Strategic Communicator, the e-newsletter from Mueller Communications. Subscribe and receive weekly, curated content on marketing/communications, media relations, crisis communications/management, fundraising, strategy and leadership.