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Change Management vs. Communications: What’s The Difference?

I have heard clients and colleagues ask for a “communications or a change management person” during discussions for rolling out a new program or technology. It seems to be common that change management is confused with or mislabeled as communications. The needs differ because the disciplines differ. Let’s take a closer look… Purpose of Communications vs. […]

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February 19, 2013

I have heard clients and colleagues ask for a “communications or a change management person” during discussions for rolling out a new program or technology. It seems to be common that change management is confused with or mislabeled as communications. The needs differ because the disciplines differ.

Let’s take a closer look…

Purpose of Communications vs. Change Management

Communications within an organization are designed to inform and create awareness around a particular topic. These communications could be in the form of a brochure, social media, or mass emails. The target for communications is ongoing information to create an informed audience.

Change management is used to deploy or execute change throughout an organization. It consists of multiple components all engineered to move your project from concept to acceptance, such as training, feedback, resistance mechanisms, project management, leadership sponsors, and communications.

So, communications is part of the change management approach but it’s not one in the same. The end goal of change management is to create a ready and able audience who will actively sustain the change.

An Example

Let’s say you are rolling out a new scheduling tool to your organization. If we were to confuse communications and change management in this situation and focus only on communication, then the end result would likely be informing your audience and NOT encouraging them to embrace change.

With a communications-only approach, your customers would know what the tool is and what the tool does, and maybe when it’s coming. But, you would probably have a lot more unanswered questions, most importantly…how do you use it? And what does it mean to me, the user, and the organization as a whole? Your customers could be left feeling like it’s “just another new system” rather than a mission-critical component of their jobs they should accept, explore, and respond to.

In Summary

Change management is designed to take a 360-degree view around deploying a change. Communications is a critical component for creating an audience that is informed and aware, but communications without change management considerations won’t necessarily help your audience embrace, accept, and continue to use a new tool.

How would you differentiate change management and communications? Share your thoughts here!

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