Effective workplace communication
Say what you mean and mean what you say
The greatest stumbling block to effective workplace communication is the emotional and psychological distance between organisational leaders and those who are led. This is very typical of the common centralised command control management structure. This distance leads to a disconnect that can be devastating in situations of major organisational change.
This feeling of disconnection can be considerably diminished by the implementation of a good communication strategy. As a useful pointer, the greater the amount of change the greater the need for effective workplace communication.
To be effective, the communication strategy needs to address the reasons for the change, the anticipated benefits, and the likely impacts of that change. It also needs to implementated and maintained for the duration of the change initiative.
There are 2 aspects to a change management communication strategy: firstly the balance between information content and emotional resonance; and secondly the stage of the initiative, in other words before the change and during the change.
The structural and content aspect of your communications
You will benefit greatly from the discipline of a programme-based approach to leading and managing your change initiative, as your effective workplace communication strategy will be based around the following:
- Stakeholder map and analysis [everyone who is going to be impacted by the change and your assessments of those impacts and their reactions]
- Blueprint [the clear definition and statement of the changed organization]
- Vision statement and pre-programme planning process [the high-level vision and the follow-up pre-planning process to unpack the vision and analyse the impacts]
- Programme plan [the steps that will be taken to make the changes and get the benefits - a schedule of projects and projects and initiatives]
The key FACTUAL questions that your communication strategy needs to address
- Key messages
- Target audience[s]
- How much detail
- Channels of communication
- Feedback mechanisms
- Follow though on feedback
The key EMOTIONAL questions that your communication strategy needs to address
Effective workplace communication has enotional resonance - it connects with people.
John Kotter has said that great change leaders are very good at sharing stories that are visual and graphic in language and that contain a high emotional impact.
Kotter gives the example of Martin Luther King who chose not to stand up in front of the Lincoln Memorial and say: "I have a great strategy" and proceed to illustrate it with 10 carefully reasons as to why it was a good strategy.
Instead, he used those immortal words that have echoed down through the decades: "I have a dream," and then went on to share his dream with the people as he illustrated his picture of a future intergated US society and he delivered it with high emotional impact.
William Bridges focuses on the emotional and psychological impact and aspect of the change - and poses these 3 simple questions:
(1) What is changing?
(2) What will actually be different because of the change?
(3) Who's going to lose what?
Transition management requires a leadership capability to see the situation through the eyes of the other guy. In other words a demonstration of empathy.
In a situation of major organisational change, an effective workplace communication process recognises and affirms the practical realities of those people at the frontline. It seeks to address these realities and to help people through the transition process.
When this doesn't happen , and there is a denial of the losses that people are dealing with, the disconnect grows and engenders feelings of mistrust.
5 guiding principles of a good change management communication strategy
So, in summary the 5 guiding principles of a good change management communication strategy are as follows:
- Timing schedule
- Feedback process
Further resources on this site
Communication strategy - as an integral part of programme management.
Barriers to effective workplace communication - But do they FEEL what you are saying?
Conversations of change
Jennifer Frahm - Conversations Of Change
In the last ten years, she has focused on the area of organisational change and is qualified at a PhD level. Her doctoral research investigated the different types of communication in organisational change programs, with a specific focus on organisations undergoing continuous change.
Jennifer says: "Some change programs can be really challenging to work with. Here are six tactics that change agents can use to create compelling conversations of change:"
Six Tactics for Creating Conversations of Change
"Despite a wealth of best practice books on the market on how to manage change, there still exists a desperate need to improve our change communication.
This is particularly important given the rate and prevalence of major change going on in business today. Change can be exciting, change can be born of opportunities, but change can also be very painful and messy for those involved."
The following article is a summary of findings from Jennifer's PhD research in change communication and some observations from her experience in managing change in organisations:
Why is Communicating Change So Hard To Do?
Return to: Managing Change in the Workplace