Communication is a key factor in the success or failure of any project. Keeping everyone on board and informed is vital, but the volume of digital communication we send, receive and post on the web is increasing exponentially.

While this constant communication keeps people informed of the hard facts, we also often find ourselves using it to persuade stakeholders to change their behaviour. But can digital communication really address the emotional journey we go through during a change process? I don’t think so.

Let’s look at how we manage change. There are many models of change and in many cases they are similar. This is the Kotter Model which I find simple and effective:

8 Steps for leading change (Kotter, 1996)

1. Create a sense of urgency; help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately.

2. Create the guiding coalition; put together a group with enough power to lead the change.

3. Develop a change vision; clarify how the future will be different from the past.

4. Communicate the vision for buy-in; ensuring that as many people as possible understand and accept the vision.

5. Empower people and remove barriers; remove as many barriers as possible and unleash people to do their best work.

6. Generate short-term wins; create some visible, unambiguous success as soon as possible.

7. Don't let up; consolidate gains and produce more change.

8. Make it stick; anchor new approaches in the culture.

With this in mind, could you manage a change process using only digital communication? Step one is “create a sense of urgency”. If your office was on fire, would you send an email to clear the building? Worryingly, I can think of some people who might!

Our communication medium and method needs to fit what we’re trying to achieve. Sometimes it’s instinctive, and at other times it‘ll require a conscious effort. And of course, it’s ironic that this Thoughts piece uses a digital medium. Perhaps you'd prefer to respond via telephone - if so, call our London office and ask for me.