The key to successful change management: Internal communications
Updated: Mar 1, 2020
Organizations change over time – to adapt to fluctuations in the marketplace, to capitalize on new ideas and technologies, to make improvements, and to adjust to internal and external circumstances.
We have read or heard of various studies conducted by well-known global organizations that surveyed managers and employees to found out why change projects often fail.
But before looking into why change initiatives fail we should first examine what change entails. Change means that we will need to "learn" new things and "unlearn" many others. Change means discomfort, uncertainty and the feeling that everything is unfamiliar.
When managing change, we need to remember that the key recipients of the change are people. People who have emotions, feelings and personal connections. And the success of organizational change lies in the reactions of those people.
A key reason why change initiatives often fail is lack of or insufficient communication.
However, this does not refer simply to communicating when the new system or process will be in production. Clearly, this is an important piece of information if our teams need to start using new software, but it is by far not the most important aspect.
Communicating about why there is a need for change and what would happen if change does not take place are key ingredients of a good communication strategy.
Also, communication needs to happen before, during and also after the change project and it should be sponsored and actively supported by key leaders in the organization.
However, while cascading messages from the top-down is critical, it should not constitute the only way of communicating. A good communication strategy should encourage dialogue at all levels of the organization and engage the organization's leaders and employees in a dialogue that ensures all points of view are taken into consideration.
But why is this so important?
Well, in fact, it is because if employees don’t understand why changes are happening, they will not engage and commit to changing their habits and ways of doing things and this can even result in resistance or push back.
Especially in well-established corporate cultures, it is considerably easier to rely on old readily understood ways of doing things than to find new ones.
What does a great communication strategy look like?
Executives who communicate well incorporate messages into their hour-by-hour activities.
In successful transformation efforts, executives use the different communication channels that are regularly used inside the organization to share the vision. They make sure that company newsletters include lively articles about the vision, and celebration of success stories, intermediate steps, and milestones. They turn quarterly management meetings into exciting discussions of the transformation.
What is your experience in leading change efforts? What tactics have you used to secure engagement and share successes?