According to a study by Gartner, the average organization has undergone five enterprise changes in the past three years. Change is part of every business, and it is accelerating. Change fuels organizations, start-up to global enterprise. Organizations change to be relevant, respond to market expectations and to grow.
The problem is that change can seem overwhelming and insurmountable in the minds of those who need to implement change. When 50% of organizational changes fail, how can leaders make change approachable both for themselves and the communities they serve? Leaders can understand and incorporate two key ideas into their change management strategies.
- They must realize that change management isn’t a one-time event or announcement, it’s a process.
- Change management will only succeed when communication is interwoven into every step of the process.
Leaders who understand these truths can effectively communicate with change champions, change sponsors and communities fully engaging them in the change process.
Change management is not an event, it’s a process
“Data from over 2,000 data points and ten years show that initiatives with excellent change management are six times more likely to meet objectives than those with poor change management.”Prosci, global change management consultancy
Leaders often think of change management as a one-time event. This mindset overlooks how people and cultures navigate through change. Viewing change management as a process helps leaders gain support, build momentum and sustain progress throughout change initiatives.
When analyzing change management models, leaders should be aware that not all are equal. Beehive favors Kotter’s model, which focuses on the most important element of change: people.
In every step of Kotter’s model, we see a common theme — engaging people. If leaders don’t have the support of their people, change initiatives can’t succeed. Getting this support requires strong communication at every step of the change communication process.
Change management can’t succeed without communication
“Nothing undermines change more than behavior by important individuals that is inconsistent with the verbal communication.”John P. Kotter, “Leading Change”
Leaders should start by understanding their employee communities. What makes change hard for them? What motivates them? What are their perceived roadblocks? Change will differ from organization to organization, but a few things remain constant.
Change creates uncertainty. Employees see and feel change coming far before it’s shared with everyone. They begin to assume what’s occurring and wonder, “How is this going to affect me?”
Stakeholders won’t support what they don’t understand. Leaders need to carefully consider their organization and the communication approaches that will best help stakeholders understand their vision. When people buy into the vision, they not only participate, they create momentum for employees.
Leaders’ perceived roadblocks and those of employees will be different. Leaders should open two-way communication channels to invite stakeholder input. Understanding perceived roadblocks will help leaders act before change progress stalls.
Organizations fail to change because they fail to communicate. Change initiatives are more successful when supported by strong communication. Organizations that engage stakeholders throughout the process can implement even the most complex change.
Change management communication needs to be focused
Change management communication differs from corporate communication in its goals. Change management communication is focused, process-centric and planned. The primary goals are:
- Creating the climate for change
- Engaging the team
- Enabling organizations to affect change
- Implementing and sustaining change
Well-executed change management communication earns stakeholder buy-in, reduces uncertainty and builds momentum from start to finish. Leadership may have a vision, but it can only institute transformative change with the support of its people. When leaders prioritize communication, they make effective change possible.
Is your organization is ready for its next big change? To find out where your organization stands, read our newest guide.
About Lisa Hannum, President & CEO
Lisa Hannum is founder and CEO of Beehive Strategic Communication, a Certified B Corporation. She is a purpose-driven leader who believes in the power of communication to build better businesses for a better world. Lisa has more than 30 years of experience in brand positioning, change management, culture transformation, crisis and issues management, marketing and public relations. Her clients have included Verizon, 3M, Cargill, University of Minnesota Health and Beaumont Health. Lisa frequently speaks and writes on the business value of communication and workplace culture.