Leading Change—Talking About Communication

I spend a lot of time talking about communication around here.

Why? Because it may very well be the most important aspect of anything you hope to achieve in a group environment.  Right now, we’re focusing on change and the steps that you can take to give yourself the best chance of success.

But it really goes beyond just change management—if you can’t communicate effectively, you can’t accomplish anything where the group size is greater than one!

You Under-Communicate 100x Too Much

One of the 12 things you should do when you encounter resistance and need to get your change initiative back on track is to improve and increase communication.

It may be #2 on the list, but it should be #1 in your heart!

You might be tired of me repeatedly coming back to John Kotter and his lessons on organizational change, (and if you are, you might just as well remove this site from your bookmarks…) but in his words:

“It’s not likely that you will under-communicate a little bit; you will probably under-communicate 10x to 100x too much.”

So with that thought as a backdrop, let’s look at some foundational elements for the communications aspect of your change management plan.

A Change Communication Strategy Framework

My intent is to provide you with a framework for discussion, and some objectives for your change communications.

Communication Objectives

  • To explain the need for change and create a sense of urgency
    • Business case for change
    • What would be the consequence of keeping things as they are?
  • To articulate a clear vision of the post-transition future
    • What is the future-state vision of your organization and how will it be achieved?
  • To inform employees regarding expected changes and the on-going change initiative
    • How familiar are you with the expected changes?
    • What opportunities might it open up for you and/or your work group?
    • What challenges might it present for you and/or your work group?
    • What do you think you might gain/lose, if anything, as a result of these changes?
  • To manage expectations with respect to the change
    • Has anyone produced before and after process maps in a format that can be easily understood and communicated?
    • Would this be useful?
  • To encourage managers and employees to take ownership of the change and to share responsibility for its successful implementation
    • We expect employees to share their concerns and to contribute to the identification and implementation of any solutions that may be necessary.
    • Do you think the work environment at your organization is conducive to that?
  • To overcome resistance to change
    • What, if any, previous experiences have you had with change?
    • How did that go for you?

Timing/Frequency of Communications?

  • Timing with respect to the implementation schedule?
  • Timing with respect to other key events in your environment?
  • Regular update (e.g. Newsletter) or ad hoc communications?

Communications Vehicles?

  • Electronic – intranet, email, blogs, wikis, social networks
  • Paper – to reach those without electronic links or comfort
  • In person – to provide opportunity for dialogue and engagement in large groups, small groups, and individually

Source of Communications and Communications Audiences?

Who owns the change initiative and who should be responsible for sending and receiving communications?  What are the communications roles of:

  • The President/CEO/Lead?
  • Senior Management?
  • Transition Project Manager?
  • HR?
  • Communications Director?

Audience Segmentation

Strategic communications requires some sort of audience/user segmentation.  A standard way of doing this is based on familiarity with the initiative and favorability of opinion.  Be sure that you have these segments in mind as you plan your communications.  If your message speaks to only to the boosters, how do you think it will be received by the detractors and the cynics?


Change segmentation-600x452


Employee Issues

What are the key issues for your employees that you must be sure to address?  Have you asked them?  How recently?

  • Training?
  • Impact on how we will do our work?
  • Impact on management and supervision?
  • Impact on careers and career planning?
  • Impact on social relations at work?


Have your management teams prepared for workshops with the employees as part of the planning process and to create greater engagement from everyone who will be affected?

  • What is our role in achieving the desired future end-state?
  • What are we losing in the new end-state?
  • What are we gaining in new end-state?
  • What can we do to make the transition easier?
  • What help do we need to make the transition easier?
  • What steps do we need to take to develop our role in reaching the end-state?
  • How will we know that we are successful?

Ongoing Support

Leaders who expect the change—even among those who are behind them—to simply be accepted and followed without any further support are in for tough times.  You can expect that your team will need additional:

  • Change leadership coaching
  • Facilitated group problem-solving sessions
  • Teambuilding
  • Recognition and celebration of successes

This list should provide you with a good starting point as you think about how you will communicate with your people.  But, of course, it isn’t exhaustive—what important pieces would you add to the framework?


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