How to communicate Change

For the last week I’ve been thinking about a couple of ideas for my blog. Nothing stood out and then I received an unexpected email from Google:

Now, I’m used to read Google’s blog where they announce upcoming changes. But this one is different. It’s for me the first time that I pro-actively get a “personal” email from Google announcing an upcoming change. I’m not going to discuss or analyse the change content itself but like to look at the way it is communicated.

Be Different To Grab Attention

Different to the usual Google announcements this on popped up in my Inbox. I don’t have to go anywhere like a blog post or forum or listen to somebody “in the know” who leaks it onto Twitter or Facebook. No, Google choose to email all customers directly.

Because it is different, it is attention grabbing. In my IT job we send emails with changes all the time. Did it do what we intend? Not always. Emails from ICT are the norm and nothing “bad” will happen if I (the customer) don’t read it. Well sometimes that doesn’t work out. And in those cases I as the initiator of the change need to change my standard way of communicating with my customers. That is exactly what Google has done.

Provide Enough Time To Familiarise

But Google has done something more. In the industry I’m used to services that suddenly changes their terms and conditions. Apple is particular bad example in this respect. Sometimes I find a new or interesting app on iTunes and click on the “Buy” button. Then I enter my password and expect the download to start. But no, something has changed and Apple asks me to reconfirm the changed T&Cs or policy. At that point I’m interested in the app and not into reading 43 pages of small print. So I confirm and start the download again.

This is just clever from Apple’s perspective, isn’t it? That change just got accepted in a whim, no fuzz at all. I don’t think so! This is always on my mind and while I like Apple’s products this one of a few bug bears I have with them. And one day one of these changes will horribly back fire.

Here comes this Google email and tells me about the change, when it is going to happen and why they are doing it. Oh, look I have more than 4 weeks (!) to read the new policy and make up my mind about it. That even gives me enough time to change my email provider if I don’t like it or start a campaign ;). I’m impressed.

Make It Clear What Is Changing and What Stays The Same

One important aspect of change I learned early on was that people want to know the extent of the change. I remember vividly when I explained in one software project what the change entailed and how the IT department was preparing training and support. It created a million question and a small uproar. Until I made it perfectly clear that process would remain unchanged people were getting a better tool for doing the job. Everybody calmed down immediately.

So, I had a look at the FAQ section of Google’s proposed change. And yes, they have included things like

.. and our privacy principles remain unchanged ..

.. we use data to refine and improve your experience on Google across the services you sign in to us ..

Overall I’m impressed with this email and the Google pages explaining the change.

Make Use Of Multiple Communication Channels

Strangely enough I’m using email filters a lot. And most emails are parked into buckets where I read them when I think it is the appropriate time. This could have happened to Google’s email, too. And I’m sure in any business people are reading the emails that are important for their day job with priority and everything else comes later. Hence it is important to use multiple streams to get information to everybody.

So, I’m curious if Google is going to do that. Can we expect a TV commercial ? – Microsoft is good at that reminding people that they are still high in the game. Or a facebook campaign? Or a highlighted section on Google Search? I stay tuned. Just this single email doesn’t cut it.

What is important for You when you are subjected to change?

  • communication
  • change content (in line with your values, impact on your job)
  • change implementation (small steps, big bang, continuous improvement, ..)
  • involvement (being consulted, contribute, ..)
  • risk management
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