The Challenge And Imperative Of Change Management
Unprecedented change has become our new normal. We face shifting economies, social change, and threats to our very existence. The remote workforce seems here to stay. Technology has enabled—or invaded—every aspect of our daily lives. For organizations, constant change is now business as usual.
If change is everywhere, all the time, why do we still have so much trouble adopting new ways of working?
Research tells us that most change initiatives fail.
How could this be? Is change adoption the Achilles heel of progress? Why is change so hard, even when it is clearly necessary?
When change is on the horizon, employees often experience cognitive and emotional reactions that leave them feeling insecure, uncertain, and even fearful of what is to come (Dufrene & Lehman, 2014). These emotions cause people to resist the change.
Based on research and personal experience, I believe that our change challenges have a common factor—lack of effective communication.
- Authentic communication from leadership helps diminish resistance. Dufrene & Lehman believe that “timely and sensitive messages delivered in a sincere personal manner can go far in assuaging fears and building a sense of optimism.”
- Effective communication provides a new narrative. Good change leaders use the power of story to replace negative associations with comparisons to positive experiences familiar to the audience.
- Communication should be expertly planned to focus attention on what’s important. Often, change leaders use blanket communications that don’t fit the audience. Each stakeholder group needs custom messaging that makes sense for them. The language, examples, tone, channels – all must target the hearts and minds of the group on the receiving end.
- Good communications are streamlined. They grab the attention of the audience with clear, concise, and motivating content aligned with the culture.
- Communications should be layered. Once is not enough. Change leaders should deliver the same content many times, through different channels. The more important the message, the more layers you need.
- People do not invariably resist all change, but rather resist change that is imposed upon them. Think of communications as engagement. Information should flow both ways. Change leaders must respond to what they hear from stakeholders and create an ongoing dialogue. The conversation itself is motivating and creates positive momentum.
If change is our new reality, leaders must embed communication excellence throughout the organization.
Marshak, R. J. (2014). Organization development as an evolving field of practice. In C. G. Worley., A. McCloskey., & M. Brazzel. (Eds.). The NTL Handbook of Organization Development and Change: Principles, Practices, and Perspectives (pp. 3–24). San Francisco: Wiley.”