Communication for Change
Experienced change management consulting professionals have learned a lot (the hard way) about how to communicate for effective change in the workplace. For example, change communication should be simple, clear, timely, relevant, oft-repeated, and leader-led. Perhaps most important, however, is that those most affected by change must believe in and buy into the need for change. The leaders who understand the other-centered communication for change are most likely to get it right.
Yes, leaders can work to persuade stakeholders that the change is in their best interest, but that effort can take a lot of time. After all, people generally resist change, at least at first. How can you accelerate the process of getting the commitment and full support of those that matter most?
By far, the most effective approach is to actively involving stakeholders much earlier in the change process by involving them in the actual conception and creation of the change. Recent research by Bain found that the active engagement of stakeholders during the strategy design phase has the highest correlation to strategies being successfully implemented. We know from experience in the field and from change management simulation data that the same is true with organizational change.
The Change Vision
Think of a change vision as the inspiring image of a more desirable future that is possible, positive, clear, and personal. Few fully commit to changes at work unless they feel that it will benefit them in a meaningful way. The best way for a change to feel personally beneficial is for employees to participate in the design and implementation of the changes that they are being asked to embrace.
The best leaders are students of change and effective communicators. They understand that one-way communication simply announces one’s own ideas. Instead, two-way conversations elicit the thinking of others and unleash synergistic creativity. When you as a leader truly ask questions, you invite the thoughts and participation of others. You can ask questions like:
Stop thinking about one-way communication and start engaging in other-centered communication. You will find that employees begin to own the vision for and plans for change.
Your Job Now
Once you have the general population on board with the vision for change, you can work toward setting up the systems and processes that will support successful and lasting change. Make sure you share progress toward the goal, are transparent as obstacles emerge, request help in overcoming barriers, and visibly celebrate wins. To maintain momentum and stay on track you need to keep the two-way conversation going.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to organizational change, go slow to go fast. Change is often necessary and rarely easy. You will be far more successful at achieving change if you involve others in defining the need, creating the vision, and working together toward the goal.
To learn more about how to use an other-centered communication for change approach, download the 5 Science-Backed Leadership Perspectives of Change that You Must Get Right
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