Change and the Power of Engagement

If there is one underlying message from both the recent election in Queensland and the rumblings surrounding a potential change of Prime Minister in Canberra it is that party powerbrokers believe that in both cases they have struggled to ‘sell their message”.  But is that really the core of the issue?  Could some of this pain be avoided through meaningful engagement and responding in real time to some of the challenges faced along the way?

I don’t for propose to be an expert in politics and I’m sure that with the reviews that will no doubt come, that in both cases, smart people will come up with an appropriate response. However, in our backyard we have been working with a number of organisations to combine the power of communications and engagement to help organisations make meaningful, long-term decisions.

What we have found is that when faced with a particularly challenging change people respond more positively through regular engagement and communication as opposed to simply being sold a concept.  Stakeholders are looking for genuine information and the ability to make an informed decision.  In a society that has a voracious appetite for information, slick communications is being met with an increasingly skeptical response.

So, what can be done to help both organisations and impacted parties manage change? Here a few key lessons learnt from our experiences:

  • Clearly explain the drivers for action. Why does this need to happen and who will it benefit?
  • Don’t underestimate your stakeholders desire for information and data. In the 24-hour news cycle there has been a clear move to short, sharp sound bites. While they have their place, they don’t need to be the be all and end all. Give people an opportunity to dig deeper if they want to.
  • Engage as early as possible. Allow impacted parties the opportunity to gain a deep understanding of all the information being considered in decision-making.
  • Engage with your stakeholders to confirm the accuracy of information.  Don’t underestimate local knowledge, it may radically change the way you were approaching a challenge, it may even improve your decision making.
  • Inform people as to how their input impacted your decisions and if not why.

With an increasing level of understanding of policy process, Australians are seeking greater transparency in many decisions that impact their lives. It seems the answer is to pair back the slick sales approach and go back to a process underpinned by clear communications and regular engagement.