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3 Essential Components to Communicate Change

Inadequate communication continues to be one of the major reasons organizational change falls short of delivering the desired outcomes over the long haul.

It seems hard to believe, in today’s hyper-connected world, there is inadequate communication flowing through a changing organization. Virtual meetings, social media, comprehensive project websites and an endless stream of emails and texts are used extensively. Common habits of cascading and broadcasting change information, along with the ‘all-hands’ presentations from senior executives serve as familiar distribution methods.

Yet all too often these efforts yield nothing more than increasing the noise level in an already very noisy environment. They fall short of engaging everyone with the information they need to integrate the change successfully.

There are three essential components required to communicate change effectively:

  1. Current detailed information about the change.
  2. Ongoing, meaningful access to all employees.
  3. Power and authority required for everyone to take the change seriously.

Each of these three dimensions must be owned by people who hold familiar roles in the organization.

Project teams are those temporary task forces charged with exploring the options so informed decisions can be made and developing the plan to implement the change. As long as they are around, they have the most up to date information about the change.

First level supervisors are the people who have the vital, enduring connections to all employees. They are the ones employees want to hear from regarding any change that will impact them. They are also the most important leaders to ensure the changes are fully integrated to sustain the desired results over the long term.

Senior executives are the people with the highest level of authority in whatever part of the organization being impacted by the change. They are the ones who direct the necessary resources ($, time, effort) toward implementing the change. They must also hold everyone accountable for the desired results.

It is critically important that each of these three groups are directly connected in meaningful ways throughout the planning, implementation and complete integration of the change.

Project teams need to stay connected to supervisors to ensure they know enough about how the change will impact the local work areas. Supervisors need to stay connected to project teams so they can be the voice and the face of the change to their employees.

Senior executives need to stay connected to project teams in order to provide them the resources they require and to be able to speak knowledgeably about the change. Project teams need to stay in touch with senior executives to ensure the whole organization is taking their change seriously.

Supervisors need to stay connected with senior executives to ensure everyone involved is taking the change seriously and that everyone, at all levels, is on the same page. Senior executives need to stay in touch with supervisors to ensure the executives get accurate information about the progress of the implementation and integration of the change.

When all three of these connections are in place, everyone is getting the information they need when they need it, from a source they trust. Successful change over the long haul is much more likely to result. The more these connections are diluted with other players (communication professionals, change management consultants etc.) the more confusing the situation becomes. Those other players can provide a helpful support role. However support is different than ownership.

Change related communication must be owned by those people who can ensure the three critical connections are in place – Project TeamsSupervisors and Executives. When that happens, the organization will realize the benefits the change was designed to deliver. If it isn’t, increased noise and confusion is usually the result.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to enhance communication in a changing organization, download a copy of our Communicating Organizational Change e-booklet.

What is it like in your changing organization? Email me at chris@sundance.ca if you would like to talk.

Chris Edgelow