4 Change Risks and How to Overcome Them Conversation-by-Conversation

3 people talking about change management

Our change management consulting experts suggest a new, simplified way to look at managing organizational change effectively.

Think of the change process as one that occurs conversation-by-conversation. After all, aren’t most changes catalyzed through dialogue…productive discourse where ideas are exchanged and modified according to the influence of others?

If you agree that communicating effectively with one another is a way to introduce, gain support for and implement organizational change, then it is critical that the communication of and through change be handled right. To excel (and in some cases to survive), companies and leaders must have the capability to successfully navigate change…especially for complex organizational change initiatives where, by most accounts, up to 70% fail.

In our over twenty years of change management consulting, we consistently run into the same major risks during the four primary phases of change:

  1. As You Set the Stage: A lack of understanding of why the change is needed, and what the change is meant to achieve.
  2. As You Guide the Change: An unclear vision and strategy for the change, and/or no designated guiding coalition to lead the change.
  3. As You Make It Happen: Inadequate communication, training and empowerment of managers and teams throughout the organization.
  4. As You Make it Stick: A failure to provide incentives and to acknowledge small wins that reinforce the expected changes.

In each phase of change, there is a breakdown in communication…whether through a lack of clarity, inadequate dialogue or failure to reinforce desired behaviors. Here are four change management guidelines to ensure that your communications around change are positive and successful:

  1. Include all employees in the conversation, especially at the start. The more workers are involved at every level, the less opportunity there is for confusion, upset and resistance. A major change initiative will affect the entire workforce. Give everyone a chance to find out where they fit in the new order and how “their world” will be changed. If you leave anyone out of the discussion, you leave room for misunderstanding, rumor and even mutiny.
  2. Throughout the lengthy process, make sure that the communication around change goes two ways. Schedule ample time and opportunity for real dialogue that includes questions and honest answers. This should happen at every gathering…at the launch, at team meetings, at progress updates, and at final wrap-up and project evaluation.
  3. Require that every team meeting includes the change as a major part of their agenda. Team members need to share their thoughts on how they view the change. A sharing of perspectives is necessary to promote better understanding of how the team can collaborate for change success. Meetings should be held as often as needed to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and that everyone is on board. The open sharing of information is critical to the success of the initiative.
  4. Don’t stop talking as the change takes effect. This is the time to track progress, acknowledge the wins and reinforce the desired behaviors. Good discussions around what is going right and what needs adjustment enable the change to keep moving in the hoped-for direction.

Change is never easy…especially when most workers prefer the status quo. But when you use positive two-way conversations to support the process, change is easier and more likely to succeed.

To learn more, download 5 Expert Tips to Better Communicate Your Strategy

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