Organizational Change Can Be Successful
If you’ve been following along with each installment of this blog article on change, your change effort has created urgency, put in place the appropriate guiding teams, and now has a vision that will be the driving force throughout the process. As we move into step 4 of Kotter’s eight step process to change, our attention turns to possibly the most reoccurring reason why most projects fail – communications – or better yet, the lack thereof.
Step 4 – Communicate for Buy-in
In this step of the change process, we’ll use different communication techniques for instilling the vision of our change to the organization. The primary goal in this step is to get as many people as possible acting to make the change a reality (Kotter & Cohen, 2002, p. 83). Consider the following tips to ensure your communication has the greatest impact:
- Use general communication best practices
Keep your communications clear and concise and focused on the particular message you are trying to get across. Keep the communications short and be sure to avoid acronyms or terminology that may not be understood by all.
- Think of your audience
It is vital to consider who you are communicating to and what is of importance to them. Identifying the various audiences of your change allows you to eliminate mass communications to all audiences with information that is not relevant to them. It also allows you to communicate at the most appropriate times throughout the change process as not all audiences are involved at the same time.
- Recognize that your communications will change
Your audiences will move through the change process at different speeds and potentially very different adoption rates for the change. As audiences develop increasing levels of understanding and commitment to the effort, your communications move from a tone that instilled urgency and conveyed vision to taking action in order to move the change effort forward.
- Utilize feedback
Ensure that your communication is multi-directional, providing some method of feedback. A critical aspect of the communication effort is getting feedback about the level of understanding and acceptance of the vision (Kotter & Cohan, 2002. P. 91). Your successful communication should encourage discussion about the change from peer to peer, staff to manager, manager to staff, and other individuals up and down the management chain. Consider using focus groups, surveys and debriefings to collect feedback. Equally important is to review, take action, and respond to feedback that has been collected.
- Finding value in resistance
One of the most powerful forms of feedback can come through monitoring resistance to the change. As with any change, resistance is a normal and an expected reaction. Do not fear resistance and more importantly, do not try to squash it or ignore it. Resistance provides vital insight into your effort by indicating that pressure for change is being felt. It is also a source of feedback that indicates modification and redefinition of the vision and ultimately the change plan is needed. It highlights where the vision is being tested against real conditions. Lastly, it opens the door to engage employees further in the change process (Kotter & Cohen, 2002. P. 103).
Taking advantage of these communication tips can significantly improve your organization’s ability to convey the vision for the change and enable people to take the action that is required to make the change a reality. Enabling action is the fifth step in Kotter’s change process and we’ll discuss that in the next installment in this series entitled Organizational Change Can Be Successful.
Cohen, D. (2005). The heart of change field guide. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Kotter, J., & Cohen, D. (2002). The heart of change: Real-life stories of how people change their organizations. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.