butterfly“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” –George Bernard Shaw

The above statement is never more true than in the change process. Even when you get the words just right, people naturally make assumptions and add their own meanings based on their unique experiences and interpretations. What they understand will often be very different than what you thought you conveyed. So, what do you and your core change team need to keep in mind as you communicate your change vision?

  1. Give a clear and concise “big picture” view of where you want to go – the destination – and how it will make things better for them, for the team and for the organization. This should answer the two important questions: “What is the change?” and “Why are we doing this?”
  2. Communicate face-to-face. Yes, emails and teleconferences can also be used, but nothing beats bringing people together so you can answer questions, check assumptions and help them place the entire initiative into their own work context. Also, when you are face-to-face with people, you can more effectively deliver important “emotional meaning” such as empathy, urgency, resolve and optimism. Everyone on your core change team should follow up with frequent one-on-one conversations with individuals and small groups to check understanding.
  3. Say it over, and over, and over again. You likely didn’t create and grasp the entire vision and its implications in a single flash of insight. They won’t either. Be relentless.
  4. Also, be consistent in your messaging. Everyone on your core change team must have the same messages, and they must show unwavering commitment to the change. This means you don’t let people “off the hook” if they aren’t adapting. (You can still be kind and patient about it though.)
  5. Use stories and metaphors to help people connect to the vision.
  6. Lead by example. If part of your change vision involves cutting costs, then don’t fly the private company jet to the next board meeting.

A final word on this topic: communication of a change initiative does not fit into a single, discreet step. Nor is it a simple one-way activity. It really must happen at every stage of the process, and it should involve listening as much as telling.

In the next post we’ll look at two more steps to guide you in enacting change.

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