As business and industry continue to change our work and personal lives, the one constant is change. For workers of the future what skills will change? How will the businesses and customers we serve change? What do these changes mean for communications and technical communicators? Change and transformation for organizations is about helping people change the way they do things. Because technical communicators live at the intersection of technology and users, they are positioned well to be agents of change for their organization. Also, technical communicators typically work with multiple departments within the organization enabling them to bridge the gaps between departments.
Why Organizations Change
Change is important for organizations because it allows companies to retain their competitive edge and succeed at meting the changing needs of customers. Reasons for change include responding to crisis, reducing performance gaps, adopting new technologies, business structure changes such as mergers and acquisitions, and identification of new opportunities.
Types of Change Management
- Organization Change Management: Managing enterprise changes at the organization level and focuses on culture. This includes Mergers and acquisitions.
- Program Change Management: Tackles change at the program level. The program is a portfolio of projects. The goal is to balance the need for change with the program’s objective and budget.
- Project Change Management: Change is integrated into to every phase of a project.
- Department and Team change: Prioritizing change and raising the success rate for changes. This includes the integration of new technologies and processes.
Champions of Change
Change agents are the person inside or outside of an organization who promotes and enables change within an organization. They do this by focusing on organization effectiveness, improvement, and development. Change agents can volunteer or be selected to facilitate change; it can be a part of their job or their whole job. These people are integral to the change process, they manage change during each stage, and are key to a successful outcome.
Case for Technical Communicators as Change Agents
There are two main characteristics which make technical communicators suited to become change agents:
- Technical communicators are skilled at making technologies accessible to users through communications.
- Technical communicators must integrate change when implemented by the organization.
Being the recipient of our own organization change allows us to guide others (coworkers and clients) through change. In her article, 5 Lessons from A Professional Change Agent, Carol Kinsley Gorman states this of the purpose of changes agents, “hired to help leaders become more effective communicators’. Communicate is what we do. Usually that communication relates to change; integrating it, surviving it. Traits of successful technical communicators mirror those of successful change agents, we are:
- Driven to explore
- Creative problem solvers
- Continuously learning
- Technically adept
- Comfortable with chaos
Career paths for communicators and technical writers are not limited to writing web site content and/or writing instructions for software. Our duties integrate us into all facets of organizations and provide the skills necessary to move customers and the organization through change successfully. These skills should not be overlooked by companies searching for talent and communicators looking for opportunities.