TCANZ Conference Theme 2014 – Communicating Change

Change communications are vital!

Change communications are vital!

The TCANZ committee members, those tireless workers for technical communicators in New Zealand, are currently kicking around ideas for a theme for the next conference (September/October 2014). Themes are good – they provide a focus and framework for the marketing and the speakers. One idea that is gaining some traction for the 2014 conference is Communicating Change. In this blog, I want to explore this idea and see what others think of it.

Every day, technical communicators are describing something that will mean change for their end-user. Of course, this isn’t implicit in every TC project – but it is perhaps implicit in enough of what we do to be an area worth exploring for the majority of our profession.

Here are some examples of TC projects that will involve change for the end-user:

  • Writing procedures for using a new computer system – leading to some degree of change, frequently a profound degree, in the user interface and processes
  • Writing procedures for using an existing computer system after the next major software release, once again, potentially leading to new ways of doing things
  • Updating or introducing new policies, standard operating procedures, forms to the business – potentially leading to new ways of doing things
  • Writing a manual for a new gadget – even if they’ve had this type of item before, this gadget is new and involves change for the user
  • Migrating existing documentation to a new medium, for example PDF to HTML; ringbinders to SharePoint; newsletters to tablets – requiring a change in behaviour and habits

Communicating change to a receptive audience is relatively easy – if your documentation is describing long-awaited bug fixes or system improvements, for example. But what if the audience is not receptive? What if the audience feels threatened, perhaps because the change threatens their job, their self-esteem, their comfort zone? What if they feel the system is changing for the worse? What if the change you are helping to introduce is going to force them to learn something new when they don’t want to? Or what if the audience is receptive – they know they need to install a new router – but it’s annoying to have to come to grips with one that’s a bit different to last year’s model?

These are not unusual situations or challenges for the technical communicator. True, it is not generally a burden we face on our own; we’re part of a team of marketers, IT, quality, and comms people. However it is often our artefacts that will take the user from A to B – a job that is much easier if we can understand how best to support and motivate change.

How helpful do you think it would be in your role to attend a conference that talks about how we communicate change, and look at some case studies? Have your say below.

4 thoughts on “TCANZ Conference Theme 2014 – Communicating Change

  1. Deborah Stewart says:

    Communicating change is such a big part of our role and it’s always good to hear how others do this well. I would love ideas on changing a reluctant learner and deflecting those who abuse you “but we know you’re just doing your job”

    • Thanks for the feedback, Deborah – in our opinion NOBODY should be abused at work! We’ll talk about it at the conference, of course, but we also encourage you to come along to a TCANZ meeting and get some face-to-face support and advice. I know that phrase alone makes me want to buy you a drink!

  2. I think this will be a very useful subject and one that many organisations and employers are currently going through and seeking input from those who have both good and bad experiences to share. I have been working in large change programmes for years both internal organisational changes and across Agency changes so I may well have some case studies that could be shared and I would be interested in being involved if possible.

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