Just the FAQs

Nov 19, 2010 3 Comments by

Dragnet was one of the first popular dramas to make the leap from radio to television and generated an entire genre of cop shows that followed.  Detective Joe Friday’s badge # 714 appears courtesy of Mark VII Limited.

There’s a classic line from the old television police drama Dragnet where Detective Sergeant Joe Friday (as played by Producer/Actor Jack Webb) tries to keep an eyewitness focused during the process of questioning.  He exhorts her to provide: “Just the facts Ma’am…” instead of rambling on or locking up in response to his questions.

Joe Friday’s simple advice also applies to the drafting of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about your big change project.

Today’s post is a primer on how to create the right FAQ’s and use them to get stakeholder communication for your change project off on the right foot. In later posts, I’ll get into the drafting and review process to make sure your FAQ’s have the kind of quality that yields results.

Stick to the Facts (or FAQ’s): As a part of ongoing communication with the people impacted by your change, it’s a good practice to ask and answer the questions that folks care most about.  You don’t need to ramble on with all of the content that will be included in detailed communications or training, but it’s a good idea to share some basic stuff.  That’s what FAQ’s are for.

Everyone’s busy! FAQ’s are a good way to get a lot of information across to a lot of people  in a short amount of time.

Everyone’s busy… Imagine you had 2 or 3 minutes to address the top 5 or 6 things that most people would want to know about your change.  What would you say? Start by answering these 6 simple FAQ’s which I’ve used on past change projects:

  1. What is the change?
  2. Why are we doing this?
  3. When is this all going to happen?
  4. What’s in it for me?
  5. What do you need me to do?
  6. Where do I go for help?

Of course you may need to write more FAQ’s based on the context and details of your change, but make sure to at least address these basic information needs. I’ve included tips on how to dig up more detailed items below.

There’s More Where That Came From: To get into the more involved FAQ’s, go explain the change to some of your stakeholders and ask them what they want to know more about.  (Site visits are great for this) Then draft up the answers you gave – but consider the additional perspectives of the entire company and of each organizational unit.

Go out and visit a few stakeholders to make sure your team’s messages are based in reality and help to build support for your change. Once you have built a level of trust, they will let you know if you are on target.

Here are a few examples of FAQ-generating questions I’ve heard from field employees during site visits:

  1. Who’s most impacted?
  2. Who’s less involved?
  3. Who’s exempt from the change?
  4. What training is there going to be?
  5. What parts of the change are non-negotiable?
  6. What are we losing in this deal?
  7. What elements of the change are meant to standardize practices?
  8. Will some areas of the company be allowed to do things differently?
  9. What innovations are being implemented with the change?
  10. What’s going to stay exactly the same?
  11. What technology is involved?
  12. What have we done to account for the unique nature of operations within my business unit or location?

Closing Notes for Today: I have found that it’s a very good practice to share the answers to Frequently Asked Questions with your stakeholders as a big change approaches.  There is no perfect number of FAQ’s – I have seen teams use as few as 4 or 5 or as many as several dozen.  I have yet to see a project team that regretted the effort spent creating and sharing FAQ’s with their stakeholders so any number is probably better than doing nothing.

Once the most common FAQ’s have been answered for stakeholders, you’ll be well on your way to closing the case for your change.  Tomorrow I’ll give you more tips on how to write good FAQ’s and how you can get them out there for the world to see.

-Steve

Question for Chatter:

  • What’s the risk we run with stakeholders if we don’t give them straight answers to common questions about our changes like the questions on my list above?

Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Stakeholder Readiness

About the author

I help people and teams succeed with big changes... never a dull moment!

3 Responses to “Just the FAQs”

  1. Weekly Wrap Up says:

    […] Just the FAQs (thebigrocks.com) […]

  2. Steve says:

    Thanks for the comment Karie! I totally agree that good FAQ’s can save the team a lot of time downstream…

    Another interesting tidbit: I once worked for an Executive Sponsor who’s first reply to a stakeholder’s question that had already been addressed with an FAQ would be: “Great question. The answer is in the FAQ’s. Let me show you where that is on the website!”

    :o) -Steve

  3. Karie Price | Real World BA™ says:

    Such a relatively easy task that provides such huge impact! If we don’t take the time to document and communicate these frequently asked questions, we’re bound to get asked them anyway…frequently. So, not only does this help to ease the transition of the change and prepare people for what is coming; it actually is more efficient. Thanks for the reminder, Steve, to focus on this proactive communication with stakeholders!

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