Communicating change: the 4P model

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Communicating change: the 4P model

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One of the most difficult challenges organisations have during change or transition is communication. I have been reminded about this as my current company has entered ’transformation’. What to say and to whom is a tricky problem.

A simple model that I have used many times to help line managers and those managing change processes is the 4P model.

The 4Ps come from William Bridges’ Managing Transitions methodology. I was trained and certified back in the 90s to deliver Bridge’s material by Bill himself and I have found his ideas and tools useful time and again.

It was widely used at Shell and I also used it at the New Zealand and Russian companies at which I worked. I have now introduced it to the change management team here.

The 4Ps are quite simple but act as a good template or checklist for management to talk about the changes with staff in a company and to those caught up in the effects of the changes. Because it might not be enough to suggest to people that change can be fun and rewarding or create opportunities for them. My experience is that change is often painful and that there are losers as well as winners, and not just the people who do not embrace those changes.

The 4Ps are: Purpose, Picture, Plan and Part.

Purpose: You have to begin by explaining the basic Purpose behind the outcome that you are seeking. Why are we doing this? People have to understand the logic of the change or transformation before they can turn their minds to work on it.

Picture: You should paint a Picture of how the outcome will look and feel. People need to experience it imaginatively  before they can give their hearts to it and get to where they need to go.

There is a Biblical example Bridges used that I have repeated many times. This is when Moses was leading his people for 40 years through the Wilderness to the Promised Land (The Purpose). The picture he painted of what it would be like was ‘The land of milk and honey’.

Plan: Operationally-minded people often need more than just a picture they want a Plan. And Bridges makes the distinction here between the change/implementation plan and the transition plan, which this is. For example how people will receive information, training, support, timing and nature of key events, workshops, whatever. People need a clear idea of how they can get to where they need to go.

Part: People need a tangible way to contribute and participate. You can give each person a Part to play in both the plan and the outcome itself.

A simple model but if you really can address all 4Ps, the chances of success will be a lot higher. Otherwise as Bridges says, there may be lots of starts but no real beginnings and without transition the change changes nothing.

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