One of the major barriers to effective communication in a change initiative is the disconnection between the people at the top who are driving the change and the people at the frontline who will be most affected by the change.
This disconnection is largely the result of the centralised command and control management style prevalent in so many corporates.
The career progression of senior executives in this environment puts them further and further away from the human impacts of their decisions.
The people side gets disregarded - or at best seen as a "soft"issue.
Have you made the connection between the human impact and your bottom line?
So, to any business leaders reading this, I ask you:
"The numbers may make sense, the business case is sound, the 'synergies' may look sweet, but have you assessed the human, political and cultural factors?
Two reasons why this is so often not recognised: primarily because the focus is on the business logic; secondly because corporate cultures are hard to see, and finally because this aspect of change is seen as "soft", intangible and unquantifiable and by implication not really worthy of detailed scrutiny.
Just as an illustration of this point in the context of M&A, a study of 40 British companies [Cartright and Cooper 1995] reported that all 40 conducted a detailed financial and legal audit of the company they intended to acquire, but that not even one of these same companies made any attempt to carry out an audit of the company's human resources and culture to assess the challenges concerning integration of the organization they were acquiring.
Yet, I find all of this strange given the colossal financial cost and shareholder value destruction that is the direct result of this failure.
5 proven barriers to effective communication in change management
So, if you really want to get it wrong - here's what to do in 5 simple steps:
(1) Lack of clarity of message - don't tell them what lies behind the change and don't sell the problem before you try to sell the solution. Use jargon, plenty of it and take a long time telling them. Oh and to really make this one stick, don't tell them how it's going to be different after the change - just keep telling them how its all about the values, mission and vision.
(2) Absence of emotional resonance in your message - the delivery and tone of your message should clearly indicate that you as senior management haven't given a second thought to the real impact this is going to have on them. Don't tell what they're going to lose or have to let go of. And to reinforce that point make very clear by your tone that you don't care and that that dimension never crossed your mind. This will certainly help build large barriers to effective communication!
(3) In-accurate targeting - make sure you talk to the wrong people with the wrong message at the wrong time. Most importantly, never address the "what's in it for me" question, and totally disregard the psychological and emotional transitions they will have to go through in adjusting to your change.
(4) Poor timing schedule - why waste valuable senior management time keeping your people fully in the picture? Keep them in the dark and keep them guessing.
(5) No genuine feedback process - two-way communication is something you can pay lip service to. Sure go through the motions, but rest easy in the comfortable complacency of your senior management certainty that knows best. ["...that's what we're paid for isn't it? After all there's no reason for this to cause barriers to effective communication, is there?"]