Skip to content

It is difficult to win support from stakeholders when time and energy are limited.

Jo Ann SweeneyThis is Jo Ann Sweeney’s guest post.
I am often asked why project team members should invest in communication activities. This question is often asked by both those who aren’t convinced and those who want to share my answer with their leadership team.
For me, the crux of the matter is the reason d’etre for projects. It doesn’t matter how many new systems, processes, or skills are introduced. All projects aim to change the way people do their jobs. If we don’t convince the end users to change, our project will fail.
One of the biggest lies I hear is that people can change. They won’t. They won’t. There are many subtle and obvious ways that people can stop change. They are impossible to stop if we don’t invest in relationships, communication and community.
Magically, communication can win the support and cooperation of most of our stakeholders when we invest in it. Bill Quirke’s simple model is what I use to explain how it works to my clients.
The Communication Escalator
The Communication Escalator graphically depicts change communications as a climbing ladder that our stakeholders follow from initial awareness through to commitment. Each step is only one communication activity.
Cognitive knowledge is at the bottom of the escalator. It is about positive emotions. It is about convincing people to take action that shows their involvement.
The Communications Escalator was adapted from Bill Quirke’s book Communicating Corporate ChangeAwareness. This is the first step in a series of one-way communication flows. This allows stakeholders to understand the basics of the change project and how it affects them.
Understanding: This second step provides additional information tailored to the needs and reasoning of stakeholders. We ask for feedback to confirm their understanding.
Support: This is the final step. We want to change the mindsets of our stakeholders so they are more supportive and positive. We want them to understand the need for change, to trust the reasoning behind the change, and to possibly accept it.
Participation: The fourth step invites stakeholders and other interested parties to participate in the project in any way.
Commitment: This step is the final. We want stakeholders to promote our project to others – to tell them about the benefits of their tea and the organization. They may also be willing to defend us in the event of criticisms of our achievements or our project.
Not all stakeholders will reach the top of the escalator. There are two criteria that will determine how far they go.
How much control they have over the project’s outcome
How much they will be affected.

Our communication resources are targeted at those stakeholders who have the most power and those who are most affected. This is a great help for change teams that have limited time and energy. They can use the time and energy they have to focus on their key stakeholders.
Jo Ann Sweeney is a professional communicator, chartered marketer and author. She assists change teams in gaining support from their sponsors, as well as senior executives or end-users. She has been a communications leader for complex technology and HR projects in large corporations. Jo Ann is known for simplifying complex issues, persuading key stakeholder and supporting change. Get practical tips and ways to keep people informed by signing up for the Transforming Tuesdays emails. Jo Ann shares one small change that has made a big difference every week.