Dr. Tech Comm - How I learned to Love Change Management

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Hour long presentation comparing and contrasting the skills and capabilities needed to do change management as technical communicators.

Text of Dr. Tech Comm - How I learned to Love Change Management

war is too important to be left to politicians. Then have neither the time, the training nor the inclination for strategic thought.

Dr. TechComm, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Change ManagementConnie Giordano & Al MartineTechWhirl.com

[opening shot of Dr. Strangelove, audio of narrator and opening dialogue with Ripper and Mandrake]

Before we get started, we want to recommend watching Stanley Kubricks Dr. Strangelove, if youve never seen it. Its a true classic, from 1964, with a lot of relevancy for today, and if youre a Peter Sellers fan, this is one you have to add to your collection. Its also one of the most quoted movies in history, and youll see why throughout the rest of the morning.

Change, like war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training nor the inclination for strategic thought. General Jack D Ripper probably got this one point right, if nothing else. Chances are pretty good that in additional to personal change (self-help) youve been involved in or even victimized by organizational or societal change efforts. Am I right? So when you hear rumblings of the latest methodology, technology, or any other ology coming down from on-high do you start to worry? If not should you? Maybe, maybe not, but were here today to talk about change management, and were betting by the end youll agree its too important to be left to politicians, or senior executives.2StarringConnie Giordano

Al Martine

3TechWhirl Executive EditorContent WizSWU Den MotherChief Cat HerderPrevious RolesChange Management AnalystInformation DesignerBusiness AnalystTechnical Writer / EditorCommunications SpecialistPR/Product ManagerTechWhirl Bus Dev/Ops Director Strategy WonkSales GuyHead of Janitorial ServicesPrevious RolesChange Management ConsultantHead of FundraisingMarketing DirectorEvent Manager

I have wandered the various fields of professional communications for many years, and most of the time I had a title other than Sr. Technical Writer. More often recently I have had change management roles.

Weve changed a lot about TechWhirl in 18 months weve owned it, and its nice to be able to apply what both Al and I know about change management work in building it. In addition to my TechWhirl content strategist/journalist/editor duties, Im about to start a new communications/CM role with Coca-Cola. Doing comms for a major technology initiativeso this presentation is actually pretty fortuitous for me.


Are you worrying? We have a Plan CTech Comm vs. Change ManagementWhy do Change Management?Change Management StructureOverlapping/Complimentary Skills

4The whole point of the doomsday machine...is lost if you keep it a secret! -Dr. Strangelove Back to Dr. Strangelove for a second. The guys on the B52 had Plan R, we have Plan C. Plan C will help us all get at least a little more comfortable with the fact that on some level, change is our profession. We deal with changing project schedules, UI, client demands, customer interests, employee needs, content, user experience and a host of other stuffbecause the organization is changing something to do one of two things: increase revenue or reduce costs.

Change management, OCM, transformation initiatives. Any of these terms sound familiar? Lets talk about a couple of examples from your experience what kinds of CM projects have you witnessed in your organization?

CM is hot stuff, and consultants make a ton of money executing change initiatives. Technical communications not so much

When you think about the change stuff at your company, what are you worrying about? Being made redundant? More work and more rework? Not being left behind? Loss of visibility for you or your team? Something else?

We say stop worrying and learn to love change management. Because it's not that hard, you can do a lot of it already and a shift in perspective plus a few fundamentals can be the first step towards expanding your sphere of influence.

Well also spend a little time today on why organizations do change management, what skills CM folks need and provide reasons that Tech Comm should be involved, and even in control of change management initiatives in the organization. But first lets pose a philosophical point for some quick and heady debate: Is change management really the same thing as technical communications? 4U change?Tell us about some of the tasks you perform regularly or frequently.

Ever wondered how many of those fall into tech comm versus change management?5Tech Comm Vs. Change Management Facilitating transitionReducing fear


In a nutshell, change management comprises all the efforts to plan and execute a set of actions that facilitate change and reduce fear of change. Meetings, training, contests, newsletters, videos, surveys, focus groups, instructions, assessments, and so on are all tools in the OCM teams kit. Facilitating transition and reducing fear are accomplished by a whole slew of communications tactics. CM focuses on the people side of the business. They research who will be impacted by the change, assess how ready each group is to change, guide them as the change happens, and monitor them to make sure the new stuff sticks.

No matter which change management methodology you might choose to follow, one thing is common to all: recognizing that in reality organizations dont change, people do

Heres the top 2 requirements for an actual OCM Analyst position:

Create change management strategy and plan which, at a minimum includes plans for stakeholder identification and sponsorship management, communications, training and organizational readiness assessment. Integrate content of communication, training and change activities to ensure focus on behavioral change. Work with other project team members to gather and analyze detailed information about the process design and the impact on the roles and the organizations affected

How much of this sounds like activities you have responsibility for?

6Tech Comm Vs. Change Management Facilitating change Improving experience7

On the other hand. A lot of what we learn about technical communication, either in school, through professional development, or via the on-the-job experience has to do with facilitating change, most often to improve the experience of our customers in using our products or services. Technical Communicators research audiences to find out what they need (or want), help assess how the organizations product/service should be developed to meet those needs, monitor and test to make sure it does what we say it does, instruct and/or train customers on how to use the product, monitor feedback and results of usage and provide recommendations on what should happen next.

For example one senior technical writer position lists the following requirements (among others): Works independently to gather and research engineering and development information for use in customer-facing documents (user guides, release notes, technical notes/bulletins, reference manuals, others).Achieves a deep understanding of the technical concepts that are introduced into existing products as new releases/features, with minimal assistance.Interviews customer support engineers, test engineers, hardware/software developers, and other technical personnel, as required, to become proficient with product technology.

So are change management and technical communication really the same thing? (Not really, but let them discuss it)

7Tech Comm Vs. Change Management Does Change Management = Tech Comm?8

In fact CMs and TCs share a lot of the same skill sets and have similar objectives for the work they do, whether or not they occupy the same space in the organizational and functional hierarchy.

Both TCs and CMs must be able to define the who, what, when where why and how of communicating some set of messages to facilitate a changewhether its buying and using a product or retooling the organization.

How can doing CM expand your sphere of influence? If youre like me, or Group Captain Mandrake, you take on a lot of the tasks of both, even if your job title leans completely CM or TC.


TC vs. CM: The JobTechnical WriterChange Management AnalystGatherPlanAssessCommunicateOrganizeImplementKey requirements and skills from actual job descriptions:

Gather information/researchPlan (messaging, training, communications)Assess (risk, current state, needs, etc.)Develop clear concepts (visual, textual)Communicate (write, design, record, edit, deliver)Organize (tasks, resources, schedules)Implement (communicate, analyze, measure, revise)

Weve found that CM happens when theres more budget, and when the CM consultants come in they take control, often direct tech comm efforts.

Clearly a good technical communicator and a good organizational change management analyst share skills and disciplinesIn environments where theres less budget, the duties fall to tech comm. So we ask, Why not take control from the get go?


Failure is an Option90%

it's beginning to look like General Ripper exceeded his authority. - Gen Buck TurgidsonCommunicationEmotionLogicCircumstanceThe answer might have something to do with 90 percent. In fact 90 percent of change management fails.

Lets go back to some of those examples of change management you mentioned. Would you say they succeeded or failed? Chances are they failed. Why?

Typical factors we can see:Failure to communicate necessary information about when, why and howConflict between various parts of the organizationDifficulty in learning the new process or tool.

Comes down to this Change management fails because of the people. People with emotions, individual perspective