Communicating Change: The Key to Avoiding the Most Common Mistakes
There’s been much debate about the agency Reform Plans that were submitted to OMB by each agency. How seriously will agencies take those plans? Will Congress pass a budget that supports the changes outlined in the plans? One thing that is hard to debate against, however, is that there will be change.
So, if change is inevitable, what we really need to think about is how we’re going to manage the change. Change management frameworks, methodologies, and best practices are widely available on the internet. However, one word sums up the key to successfully implementing change, and if not done properly, change will not be successful – communication.
Yet organizations, time and time again, do a poor job of communicating change. And what happens as a result? Greater resistance and slower adoption by the workforce, which in turn hinders the organization from realizing the benefits it hopes the transformation will generate.
Here are three tips that address the most common mistakes we see organizations make when communicating change:
The Earlier the Better
Organizational transformation requires its workforce to change behaviors, and behavior change takes time while people digest and become comfortable with what they will have to do differently. One of the most common mistakes I see organizations make when it comes to communicating change is they start far too late in the process.
As soon as soon as the decision is made to make a change, it should start being communicated, and not just to a limited group of individuals, but broadly to all those who in some way will be impacted by the change. And, it’s still not enough to communicate the change broadly, it is also critical that organizations tailor their communications (content, medium, timing, and frequency) to the stakeholder groups that will be impacted.
Remember That Communication is a Two-Way Process
All too often we see change communicated out, which leaves people feeling like change is being done to them, rather than feeling like part of the change. And, how many times have change initiatives been delayed because unforeseen requirements surface late in the process when a stakeholder group who wasn’t engaged throughout the process finally is?
Listening must be part of an organization’s communication process so that communication about a change moves beyond informing the workforce to also engaging everybody.
Use Transparency to Build Trust
Getting people to change behavior also requires trust. People have to trust that their input has been considered and that the organization will help them succeed and support them throughout the change process.
One of the best ways to establish trust with the workforce during organizational transformation is by being as transparent as possible when communicating the change. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know, and provide visibility into the decision-making process and criteria.
Organizational transformation only happens when its workforce transforms with it. Communicating to the workforce early and interactively enables organizations to bring their people with them on the change journey, rather than hoping they hop on board once the ship is already sailing.