What to Do Before Change Leaders Communicate the Change Vision
Before you can even begin to discuss the best way to communicate the change vision three things must be true.
- Agreement on the Current Situation
First, based on a thorough current state analysis for change, all key stakeholders must understand the current situation.
- Agreement on the Business Case for Change
Second, all key stakeholders must agree on the overall business case for change and the relative urgency for change within the context of your unique situation.
- Agreement on the Vision for Change
Lastly, you and your key stakeholders must have a clear vision of the change needed in your organization and the key first steps to take in the next 90 days to begin to make it happen.
Notice that “How to communicate the change vision” has not even started yet. Why? Because communication does not change the hearts and minds of employees to think, behave, and work differently. Being actively involved in the design of the change process does.
Change management consulting experts know that change does not stick unless people feel like they are part of designing and implementing the solution in a way that makes sense to them, their teams, and the company as a whole. Teams that involve stakeholders early outpace teams that do not.
How Effective Change Leaders Communicate the Change Vision
The challenge now is to communicate the change, and this is where data from our change management simulation tells us that leaders make too many avoidable mistakes.
Poor initial change communications are a major factor in the failure to rally the workforce to the need and enthusiasm for change. Somewhere between the vision for change and the communication for change there is a dangerous gap. The message fails to resonate with employees and does not inspire their commitment to the new ways of working.
Simply put, if you fail to consistently, transparently, and frequently communicate the change vision effectively, you consign the effort to failure, almost every time.
6 Steps to Better Communicate a Change Vision Successfully
|Here are key factors that all those involved in communicating the vision for change must adopt and enact throughout the process:
- Keep It Simple
Keep in mind that you are communicating across a broad spectrum of stakeholders with different communication styles, different roles and responsibilities, and different degrees of receptivity to change.
Be able to communicate the vision and rationale for change in both short and long versions in a way that powerfully connects with what matters most to your target audience.
Use simple, direct language to convey the future change vision. Tell a compelling story that describes how the change will benefit not just the business, but all involved in the effort.
- Keep It Real
Trust and accountability play a major role in effective communications. The stronger the trust in leadership, the more readily employees will believe the change will be in their best interests. And if you have a culture of accountability, people will believe that your actions and behaviors will be consistent with where the company is headed.
Be honest. Be authentic. Be transparent. Everyone knows when leaders are not being forthright.
- Keep Conveying the Message
Don’t expect that one, two, or three change communications will get the job done. While there is conflicting research on the “right” number of messages, an adage in advertising is that someone needs to hear a message 14 times before they will act based on that message.
And trying to change someone’s behavior is even more difficult. Even when it is a good idea, people naturally resist change. And the resistance can be potent if they do not want, understand, or believe in it.
If you want your change messages to sink in, your change communications need a lot of repetition and reinforcement.
- Use Multiple Communication Media
Small group sessions and one-on-one meetings are best to communicate a major change initiative, but that is not always feasible for large scale change. Use whatever means are available: company-wide meetings, the company newsletter, townhalls, brown bags, the company intranet, etc.
The key is to have a message that is accessible, consistent, and frequent.
- Align with Values
Are leaders advocating cost-cutting as a change? Then their behavior should reflect an effort to reduce costs. Fly coach rather than private jets; no raises in executive pay while employees draw the same salary as before. You get the picture.
For the changes to make sense, employees need to see leaders and high performers behaving in concert with change expectations and overall corporate values.
- Check in Regularly
No major change should be initiated without a plan to gather and share feedback on the process regularly and often. Encourage employees to ask questions, air concerns, and suggest adjustments as change is implemented.
The Bottom Line
Implementing change successfully is difficult. Don’t sabotage your plan by communicating too early or ineffectively. Get it right from the start.
To learn more about how to communicate change to stakeholders, download The Science-Backed Way Leaders Should View Change Leadership Communications