Saturday, 14 July 2012

Components Of A Communications Strategy - The "Who"

3) The "Who"

These are the key people responsible for the success of the 'desired good'.

Identifying or choosing the right individual(s) to drive a change plan or launch a new idea is intricately linked to the issue of leadership.

In various discussions in social media platforms, the leadership discussion is seen as the primary drive for introducing and sustaining initiatives.

We have all heard the saying:  "leaders are not born but made". Well  if the statement is true, then it seems that fewer  are 'made' every day. Some people confuse autocratic or dictatorial  methods for  true leadership. Others believe that being 'one of the guys' gives them automatic passes to the 'community' of great leaders.

I am certain that opinions would vary about the qualities which characterise a true leader. However, in my opinion, a true leader should generally be brave enough to do what needs to be done and wise enough to know when to roll up his sleeves and get down into the 'trenches' when the need arises. His actions should demonstrate a strong conviction for his cause, making him comfortable enough in his own skin so as not to be prematurely swayed by the perception of others or by various pretensions. This is leadership by example; and in the organisational context, no other way is as effective.

The "Who" during a minor change initiative

Deciding on the right person to handle any change initiative can be a tricky process. It must be handled carefully to avoid office politics with all its negative connotations.

If the change impacts a small unit in the organisation, for example the sales team, it may seem that the obvious thing to do would be to instruct the regional sales manager to drive and handle the change programme. However, the area manager, supervisor or line manager - by virtue of constantly being in close proximity to sales/field officers and having direct knowledge of problems/limitations or challenges experienced - may actually exert more influence, (and thus gain more commitment/loyalty), from the sales team, than the distant regional boss who sits in his plush office, occasionally barking orders and giving ultimatums.

Therefore, it takes a discerning mind to be able to select the most competent individual to drive the change initiative, even though he may not be the most obvious or popular choice.

The "Who" during significant organisational change

The "Who" is expected to be responsible for the 'desired good' and depending on the scope of the change initiative, should drive it towards completion.

This requires someone with a short-term focus but long-term plan as change programs usually go through different phases and do not, (or rather should not), stop once they are perceived to have been (successfully) implemented. This is due to the fact that the efficacy of the 'desired good' would need to be monitored and measured after the implementation phase, for a more accurate assessment of its impact. If found inherently flawed, it should be revised by employing crisis management tactics or adopting 'damage control' actions.

Often, the "Why" and "Who" components are closely linked. This is because the individual giving the rationale for the change initiative, (the "Why"), is often the one who has created sufficient visibility to be automatically deemed responsible for its success, (the "Who"). Logically, by the time the justification for the 'desired good' has been supplied, the individual who would drive its success should already have been identified for fluidity of purpose.

In certain cases however, when the change is significant or transformational in nature, either originating from the CEO's vision or impacting company culture/operations,  it may not be practical for one individual to be 'saddled' with the responsibility of  trying to gain organisation-wide acceptance, as well as attempting to direct the change throughout the conception-implementation--assessment cycle.

To shed some light on this point, let us examine the fictitious case study of Company X.

Case study of Company X

Mr. W, the newly-appointed CEO of Company X, an IT service firm operating in Nigeria, requests for data to be collated from its customer service unit. After receiving documented reports clearly linking the loss of clientele to very poor customer service and attitudinal problems, he decides to revolutionise the firm's customer service unit in order to eliminate inefficiency. He starts by announcing the 'Same-Day Rule' - a system whereby all minor technical complaints are logged/recorded and solutions offered, at no extra charge, for all clients throughout their warranty periods.

He also sets up a unit called the 'After-Hours Hotline Unit', (AHHU); he outlines 15-hour rotation shifts during the week and approves the hire of highly-qualified technical staff. The main function of these skilled professionals would be to man the 'hotline' and offer solutions to complex technical issues, from 5pm-8am weekdays and from 11am-9pm weekends, public holidays included. The AHHU staff would enjoy higher salaries, regular training, access to state-of-the-art technology and other perks in exchange for unusual working hours and demanding duties. The CEO believes that the creation of the unit would not only increase efficiency in the company's services, (its core business), but that it would also translate to increased revenue and place Company X in the advantageous position of being the first among its competitors to embark on such a drastic change. The specialised unit is especially relevant considering the ineffective maintenance culture in the industry and (as it is sometimes stated), unprofessional service delivery in the country.

After giving the rationale for the creation of the AHHU, Mr. W might initially encounter resistance to this bold action plan, especially from the regular staff, for a variety of  reasons, one being the fear of job losses. Nonetheless, after a period of planning, consultations and communications with staff and managers, he is able to get sufficient support for the implementation of his vision.

Yet, it is not practical for him to be the sole driver of the initiative. This is due to the premise that the change requires collaborative inputs from various segments of the organisation such as: the technical unit, finance unit, communications unit, human resources and marketing/sales team. The CEO may thus decide to inaugurate a cross-functional team, (comprising staff of the stated segments), to implement the change programme. The team would be required, every quarter, to track the impact of the AHHU with quantitative indicators and forward the results to him for assessment. Should results be positive in increasing market share and profitability, Mr. W might decide to include the initiative in the mid-long term business strategy of the company.

In this scenario, the "Who" becomes extremely important to the overall success of the 'desired good' and would tend to have a direct impact on the success or failure of the change initiative. 


As stated earlier this component is closely linked to the issue of leadership. It also has implications for responsibility, often confused with accountability.

A notable quote by Pasi Sahlberg, a Finnish educator so states: "Accountability is what is left when there is no responsibility. Many languages do not have a word for accountability. Almost all do for responsibility"*. 

My interpretation of the quote in the organisational framework can be summarised thus - if the "Who" is prepared for both the joys and the challenges of a change initiative, either championed by himself or delegated from above, (and by extension, assumes responsibility for it), the issue of liability/blame, (thus accountability), even when acknowledged, would not be paramount in the collective psyche of employees. It is because a true leader would always allude to the possibility of a contingency plan/alternative route to be undertaken should the 'desired good' fail, for whatsoever reason, to actualise. (The "Crisis-Mode" component would be tackled at a later date).

Incorporate a dynamic and competent "Who" into your organisation's communications strategy and watch your 'desired good' gain momentum.

The "Who" would also help pave the way for the next step - the "How"...


*Pasi Sahlberg Blog -

N.B- Images courtesy of


  1. Great work again. Glad to hear you had one of the articles published. I am sure there will be more to follow. A.E (UK)

  2. Thank you Angela. Your regular comments are greatly appreciated.

    FYI - The article published was the first one posted in March 2012 entitled: 'Communications Strategy - Paving the way to a healthy corporate image'. It was published in BusinessDay Nigeria on the 18th June 2012, (print media) and from 26th-28th June 2012 in both print media and online.

    1. Fabulous. I read with great interest. Well done Lucille.

    2. Many thanks for commenting. You might find the other articles of interest to you as well...


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