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Two coworkers communicating over a computer in the workplace: managing change

Managing Change for TV Ad Buyers, Part 4: Opening Communication Channels

July 31st, 2017   ||    by John R. Osborn

This is the fourth in a four-part series focused on the “how” of creating organizational change through new platforms, processes, and business models. The series provides an action-oriented road map for buy-side workplaces.

The first step in assuring strong communication channels while managing change is to have clearly defined roles for those responsible for change management. The primary team leader—the “automated advertising lead” (AAL), as identified in the first and second parts of this series—must organize and galvanize employees from top management down, from the grassroots up, and laterally across old and new job functions.

The Harvard Business Review suggests that any technology change implementation should include four key roles (though one person can serve multiple roles): sponsor (high-level resource support, political guidance), champion (salesperson, diplomat, problem-solver), project manager (administrator, keeps timelines on track), and an integrator (solves conflicting priorities, molds the entire team).

Every role requires strong communication skills—but what exactly do we mean by “communication skills”?

Moving From Skills to Channels

According to The Balance, communication skills for the workplace include listening, nonverbal communication, clarity and concision, confidence, empathy, open-mindedness, respect, feedback, and picking the right medium. These skills operate through various touch points that we term “communication channels.”

Keep in mind that the responsibility of managing change is as important for more junior levels as it is for top management. Here are some specific channel-building actions to foster company-wide communication channels:

  • Implement Training: Plan and include communication skills development in all training, including technical skills, personal development, and team building. Incorporate role-play wherever possible.
  • Encourage Open Communication: Reinforce using open, constructive communication in every team meeting, or in one-on-one situations (like with coaching and mentoring).
  • Increase Awareness: Look for cross-functional occasions—such as multiteam meetings, company-wide events, email correspondence, or intracompany channels within technology platforms—to both increase awareness and remind everyone of the need for clear, open communication.
  • Walk the Walk: Instill the value of communication skills from the most senior levels of the organization, and inspire the use of those skills.
  • Use Reviews and Feedback: Build buy-in from middle management and other employees by making communication skills a part of performance reviews. Consider a “360 evaluation” of these skills, where the employee also provides feedback to his or her supervisor(s).
  • Create Communication Channels: Establish communication channels going up the ladder (suggestion boxes, problem identification, creative problem-solving processes), as well as down (performance reviews, announcements of the company’s annual goals and performance).
  • Establish a Conflict-Resolution Process: For those times when team members cannot get on the same page, establish a branded, company-wide conflict-resolution process built on conscious communication skills.

Sometimes changing communication styles can feel personally uncomfortable. But as with learning a new language, just knowing the grammar and vocabulary isn’t enough—practicing and speaking the language is key. Communication skills are not “taught” through passive learning, but built initially through role-play and then fostered by encouraged usage in the work environment over time.

This concludes our series on concepts and actions for managing change in local TV buy-side operations (both agency and client-side). We’ve covered skills training, personal development and team building, liberating silos and fostering cross-pollination, and opening communication channels.

An orchestra metaphor might provide a useful picture of just how these parts all work together: Imagine a skilled conductor helping instrumentalists perform together while striving for perfect harmony. It’s not just the addition of new technologies and processes for local TV buying, but the incorporation of individual and organizational skill sets in many different ways—all working together toward a strong, successful work community.

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