A shared sense of urgency has led a coalition to develop a vision. The next step is to share this vision in order to progressively convince and mobilise everyone involved in the organisation.
Poor communication such as announcing the introduction of a corporate social network two weeks before it is due to go live is to expose oneself to rejection from the unions, who could perceive it as a surveillance tool, which is the very last thing you want with respect to a solution designed to give employees more influence and visibility.
Putting this extreme scenario aside, not explaining why a collaborative solution is being introduced is to risk seeing the platform neglected and abandoned after a short period of initial curiosity.
A collaborative project needs to have a clearly defined communication plan in place very early in the process. Companies that have mastered the art of external communication usually also know how to exploit the whole range of media available for internal communication purposes: a message from the company director, an organised presentation, a video, a teaser campaign, user guides, training, events organised internally, …
There are many techniques you can use to appear convincing. The one I'm going to recommend here is interesting because it structures the communication and goes beyond the basic "speak to the heart and the mind" strategy. Taking his inspiration from discoveries made about cerebral asymmetry, Ned Hermann has identified four main modes of thinking involved in the processing of information. In order to ensure you address your message to all, therefore, you need to communicate using all four modes and not just the one you prefer. From experience, the following is a relatively natural order for this:
John Kotter underlines the importance of non-verbal communication, particularly actions. If these contradict what has been said, they cancel it out. When it comes to collaborative working, directors, managers and those leading the collaborative project need to lead by example.
The project itself provides an ideal opportunity to mobilise collaboration. Begin collecting ideas and find out what people's expectations are from the start, e.g. by using a suggestion box, interviewing volunteers, holding brainstorming sessions, etc. And a very simple yet nevertheless very relevant and useful thing to do is involve everyone in choosing the name for the platform, whether by requesting suggestions, involving them in making the final choice, or both.
A collaborative solution enables you to develop this level of involvement and commitment with future projects. However, this will be more difficult if there was nothing in place before. One of the very first uses to which the new collaborative solution will be put is that of building a community around the collaborative solution itself: What do you think of it? Are you experiencing any difficulties? Do you have any suggestions?
And finally, rely on others to help you get the message across. It is not the job of the Managing Director to convince everybody via a brilliant presentation. The first individuals won over to the cause, especially those in management positions, will act as ambassadors for the vision they now share. They will therefore act as a kind of chain reaction.