There seems to be an unwritten rule in change management as it relates to communications. That is, communications is a tactical element and the only audience that needs to change are the employees. Why is that noteworthy? For want of a better term, because it’s lazy thinking driven by management consulting firms and the expediency necessary to moving an organization forward. However, the difference maker in change is and remains communications…strategic communications. Moving people to believe in what’s next and reinforcing new behaviors through relevant information and a process that encourages dialogue, discussion, and debate that fosters learning and collaboration.
To effectively transform an organization in a digital realm, one must recalibrate your entire mindset. It starts with how the business needs to redesign itself to succeed. It reflects different structural forms to place people in a better place to satisfy customers. How the business needs to pivot in the face of competitive shifts. How the business needs to keep ahead of the customer connecting in multiple places. How the business absorbs technology and analytics. How the business ideates and innovates. It then shifts to the behaviors and multidimensional techniques people need to drive the business in new and better ways. It then moves to a whole new conversation internally revolving around different topics ranging from financial and performance measures to insights from the marketplace and opinions of colleagues.
The most important assumption, though, that needs to be overturned involves redirecting change communications to leaders. This is a major difference with change efforts to date. Leaders must truly grasp the multi-dimensional demands on the business during change. They must initiate a new discussion inside. They must gather information and interpret it for their respective staffs. They must establish new decision-making mechanisms and spatial distribution of interactions inn their groups.
Communicating to leaders initially as the change initiative unfolds results in:
- Mitigating Ambiguity, Complexity – The key is making sense of the situation in way people can grasp and learn
- Organize Around Customers, Marketplace – Shift the view to external and reinforce values
- Expand Communications Beyond PowerPoints & E-Mail – Establish a holistic leadership model that combines multiple communications techniques
- Strengthen Interdependence – Breakdown bureaucracy at the senior levels and encourage teamwork and sharing
- Increase Voice Internally – Multiple voices vs one expand conversation providing interesting points of view and garnering more interest
- Shape Perceptions – Reframing situations and offering an array of perspectives including examples tell their own story to people
Further, if your change effort including communications is focused on employees solely there will be an immediate pushback as the workforce realizes nothing will actually change if their leadership is not being held accountable. This includes endless presentations about the future and cryptic messages about job loss and performance. The resulting take-aways include fear, uncertainty, and doubt leading to paralysis.
Organizations are now reconstituting this troubled approach and targeting leaders upfront to be the beacons of change for the organization and the models of behavior for the workforce. For communicators, this means taking our efforts a step further to being more sensitive to the dynamics of the workplace and the symbiotic relationship between employees and the organization.
To find change with employees, you first must initiate change with leadership. It’s the only way people believe the effort is actually important!
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