The 3 Key Reasons Change Communication Messages Fail

Given the number of number of times organisations embark on communicating change you think they would eventually get it right. But many things get in the way, not the least of which is thinking that communicating change is easy and that what works in one organisation will work in another. Those of us who develop change communication strategies know that this is not the case, change is difficult, it is different for every organisational culture and the approach needs to be customised each time.

Here are the 3 key reasons change communication messages fail and what you can do about it to ensure that your change messages get traction.

1. The first key mistake is when the focus of the message is on the what, not the why. The key message should not be about the project or the IT system, if that is what the change is about, it is always about the why. You need to explain how the change links to organisational strategy and specifically how what leaders and employees do in their role will change. The important aspect here is that the change is not just because of a new process but due to the organisational strategy behind its implementation. And yes you read that correctly, you need to connect the dots for leaders as well. Never assume that they understand the why behind a change initiative. If leaders are a key part of your communication approach as they always should be, then they must all be on the same page when it comes to explaining and supporting change initiatives.

2. Many times the key message communicated to employees during transformation programs is the need to change the way they do things. Sometimes unintentionally the message is heard that they way they do things is wrong and needs to improve. Successful change communication focuses on what is good about what employees do and how together we can build on this. By focussing on positive messages and finding creative ways to communicate them and not relying on online tools, you have a much greater change of encouraging employees to participate and support chance initiatives.

3. Change is never owned by the change team. The role of the change team is to provide the tools and techniques to enable transformation to occur within the organisation, change communication has to be owned by the leaders and employees within the organisation. If you stop and assess your current change programs, ask yourself the question, “When the change team ceases to exist will we have transferred capability and appetite to drive change within the organisation?” If the answer is no, then your change communication strategy will surely fail as it will only be transactional and not embedded into the culture of the organisation. The focus of any change communication strategy needs to be action oriented techniques, not just providing information on what is changing and when.

Whether you are implementing new IT systems and processes, merging with another organisation or any other change initiative, the above 3 reasons why change communication fails provides an opportunity to reassess change communication to ensure successful organisational transformation.

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