Successful organizational change is a challenge
Many change initiatives fail. Here are five reasons why and some effective communications strategies for successful organizational change.
- Leaders/managers make inaccurate assumptions regarding how their employees will be affected by the change, the attitudes of their people toward the organizational change process, and each units capacity to make the required changes in the proposed time frame.
STRATEGY: Understand how your employees will be affected by the change, what their attitudes are, and any obstacles or barriers that need to be addressed. One way is to conduct a change readiness survey.
- Underestimating the power of vision. A sense of purpose is needed to direct, align, and inspire actions. This is especially true when you want people to make a change.
STRATEGY: A group of people working together to achieve a shared vision is powerful.
- Build a very clear and simple case for the change.
- Help leaders inspire and motivate through effective communication.
- Make sure people understand the reasons for the change and the vision for the future.
- Create opportunities for dialogue with leaders and give employees the information they need.
- Under communicating the vision. People need to receive a message three times before they process it. They need to process it three times before there is a change in belief, behaviour, or perception. When it comes to communicating in an organization, about the time you think you have over communicated the message is about the time the employees get it.
STRATEGY: Implement a comprehensive, coordinated internal and external communication campaign.
- Make sure your communication is frequent, strategic, and two-way.
- Repeat the core messages seven to nine times from multiple sources through different vehicles.
- Tell employees what the plan is, what is expected of them, and how they can help.
- If the change involves emotionally charged issues, focus on face-to-face communication to allow sufficient discussion and questions.
- Leadership not visible in supporting the change. The leaders in an organization must be visible, active supporters of the change. It takes more than lip service, which employees quickly see through.
STRATEGY: One unquestionable fact about effective communication is that actions speak louder than words. Every leader in the organization must demonstrate the behaviors and actions the vision requires. Find opportunities to demonstrate leadership commitment through formal and informal communications. Ensure the leadership speak with a single clear voice and that they model desired behaviors. This may mean implementing a communications plan specifically to inform and support the leaders.
- Declaring victory too soon. It takes years for a major change to become fully embedded in a culture. You need to reinforce the “new ways” for some time until new behaviours are rooted in social norms and shared values.
STRATEGY: Major change is a long-term process but it’s important to observe short-term wins. Recognize people’s efforts and celebrate the milestones along the way, and continue to communicate about the bigger vision while keeping people informed of the process.
Change is inevitable
How you manage it is a matter of choice. Effective communication is a key factor in the success of any change.