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COMING UP FAST: Building to last - Breaking News - DILEMMA: I'm getting anxious about how the staff will take the news of next week's restructuring. We've had five fantastic years and I've never had a problem communicating before. Mind you, I've only ever

by PATRICK DUNNE, who works with 3i
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

DILEMMA: I'm getting anxious about how the staff will take the news of next week's restructuring. We've had five fantastic years and I've never had a problem communicating before. Mind you, I've only ever had good news to deliver. I know I need to do it in a different way, but how?

ISSUES: Announcing a restructuring programme is a test for any leader, even without job losses. Why? Because not every-one gets to be a winner and you're introducing uncertainty.

Demotivated staff lose business and reduce efficiency. So you are right to think about it carefully.

Good preparation is key. Think: 'Who? What? How?'

Who do you need to inform? Who do you need to get involved in the process?

Whose brains can you pick? Who will be the most sensitive people?

What are you going to say? It will be easier if what you are doing is logical, grounded in commercial reality and put in a market context. Anticipation is generally worse than reality. What do you think expectations are?

How will you deliver the news? There are a number of options. You could just blast out a round-robin e-mail and hide for the day. Going to the other extreme and involving too many people before the official announcement risks losing control. Be very clear about your approach.

You will want tell it like it is - but be sensitive. Avoid spin but also try to be positive. Give people the chance to have their say, without letting it become a debate. Consider communicating the information to different groups of staff in different ways - eg, those staying, those leaving, those being promoted, those not.

How will you ensure your stars remain motivated? How and when will you brief team leaders? Do you want to involve them in cascading the news?

Will you give them detailed Q&As to help? If you are making people redundant, the ordering and timing of communications is critical. Bad news travels very fast.

< ACTION - Prepare the 'Who, What and How' - Keep it simple, tell it like it is, be yourself and use your own words - Test it out with someone who has done it before - Make yourself genuinely available for questions - Remember that restructurings provide the perfect opportunity for firing 'the company prat'. If you don't, you risk losing your stars

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