Fundamentals of Successful Change
In most change efforts, this is the area that is usually given inadequate attention. Let’s face it, if you cannot effectively communicate your vision, then how can you expect to garner support? To effect lasting change, you must achieve excellence in the following areas
· Maintain clarity of vision
· Keep the message simple
· Align words and actions
· Know your audience
· Utilize innovative approaches
Think of the last change effort in which you were involved. You probably held an all-hands meeting to communicate and discuss the vision, distributed an email from the CEO, held a Q&A session, and finally, sent a memo before the change commenced. If you were lucky, updates were posted in the company newsletter and a follow-up meeting represented the sum total of the communication regarding this significant organizational change. Consider the amount of communication that is foisted upon an employee in a given day, and it becomes clear that a few communications are not enough to sell the vision.
It is critical to remember back to when you were developing the vision and the process you underwent to internalize the vision. Now, look at the amount of communication that accompanies most change efforts and it is no wonder that they fail to take hold and produce lasting change.
To help you achieve success as you embark on your next change effort, here are some things to think about.
Ensure the leadership team has a crystal clear understanding of the vision and can communicate it effectively. If it is muddled for them, imagine how the recipient of that information will receive it.
Look for smaller opportunities to communicate and reinforce the vision, such as in team meetings, your one-on-ones, hallway conversations, etc. Look for every opportunity to tie actions and conversations to the new vision.
Keep the vision clear of jargon. Use analogies or metaphors to convey meaning; these are often more effective than a well-crafted vision statement. Remember the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” in this case, you are creating a mental picture.
Practice your message and anticipate questions or objections, which will strengthen your message and ensure it is well received. For large change efforts, I recommend that you form focus groups where the message can be fleshed out to ensure greater clarity.
There is no doubt that change is difficult, but not impossible if you pay careful attention to communicating and internalizing the vision.