Over-Communicate to Drive Change

First in a series about communication and change management

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Mistake #1 They Know What I Know

You and your team have create a brilliant plan during that conference, workshop, planning session, meeting, brain-storming, or tiger-team. It is so blindingly obvious (to you and everybody that was in the room) what needs to be done. You’re inspired and energized. Momentum and success are sure to follow.

Yet think about the time your boss came back from a conference or a retreat full of vim and vigour, thoughts of incentivizations dancing in her head. How well does that usually work out? You try to carry out your brilliant plan, it falls flat. Bitterness and disappointment soon follow.

Other people cannot read your mind. They do not know what you know. They have not experienced what you experienced. They were not at the retreat with you. Your plan, initiative, or strategic shift may be brilliant, but it needs to be as inspiring for the people on whom we’re foisting change as it is for us.

Which is a shame, when may just need a little explaining and inspirational communication .

Say you’ve decided to roll out a performance review process. Please don’t, and I’ve seen this done – really, tell your managers: “Do performance reviews. Follow this process [hands over slide deck], use these forms [hands over forms], have it done by this date.” It will fail.

Fix #1 Over-Communicate

Back in my Air Cadet days, they forced us to practice “public speaking”. One of the simpler tools in our tool box was: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them.” This pattern works for change management too.

That new employee performance review process? Your first communication might be just for managers who will be performing the reviews. Announcing the initiative, explaining the process, and inviting them to a training session. Tell them what you’re going to tell them…

Consider repeating this first step for different audiences. Your first communication to non-managers might be an all-hands e-mail announcing the initiative, explaining the process, and inviting people to an in-person information session (like a lunch-and-learn) where they can ask questions.

Now your managers are ready for the questions that will come from their direct reports (which inevitably won’t be asked when you’re at the front of the room), because you’ve already told them what you’re going to tell them…

After the review process is complete, you might consider having a “hot wash”, inviting feedback, and compare how the process was supposed to be carried out and against what actually happened. Share this analysis. Tell them what you told them…

When You Don’t Over-Communicate

When people don’t know what’s going on and why, they make stuff up. And not the good stuff with fluffy bunnies and unicorns farting rainbows. The bad stuff. Worst case scenario stuff. Corrosive speculation and rumour-mongering follows.

Over-communication will save you time, energy, and grief in the long run. It’s worth the effort.

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