The Certain Uncertainty of Change Communication
Are you finding 2019 tough going? I’m not going to blame Brexit (well not entirely anyway), but it’s obvious that change communication activities generally have slowed down.
We’re seeing an understandable hesitancy among businesses to communicate wider vision and strategies that might change quicker than they can feasibly be implemented. Decision-making is erring on the conservative side.
It feels as though we’re all waiting for just a little more clarity, a little more certainty even. But then, when do we ever really get certainty in business?
When the going gets tough, don’t abandon change communication
When it comes to communicating through difficult and changing times, I’m on the same page as American guru Dr T J Larkin, who has talked for years about three simple steps:
1) Show the future
2) Communicate early and often
3) Engage your front-line managers
Much of the time in ‘agency land’ it’s a classic case of cobbler’s children. We get too busy hitting deadlines and striving for creative excellence to take that vital breath, step back and ensure our own change communication act is working as effectively as that of our clients and partners.
Our change communication act That’s why the whole of 7C partner agency 44 Communications got together last week to review overall business performance and progress against ‘the plan’ so far for 2019/20. We’re a small business, but whatever the size of your organisation, it’s critical to come together regularly to share results in an honest, realistic way.
A rose-tinted view benefits no one and won’t help your team understand what needs to change and why. Absolutely, celebrate success (we enjoyed a belated Oktoberfest beer-tasting session during our afternoon), but also talk honestly about lessons that have been learned along the way. After all, what would truly top-drawer change communication be without a look ahead to new areas of focus and a clear sense of direction for both the short- and longer-term?
That sharing of honest information meant immediate improvement actions flew out of the conversation, and we weren’t afraid to embrace them, even if it meant changing ‘the way things are done’.
For example, we’ve always started the week with an all-company production meeting, but this will now be replaced with smaller, quicker catch-ups. Of course, we can be agile in making changes like this but, for me, the principle is about a challenger mindset. Ask yourself: if it was Day One in your organisation – what would you keep and what would you lose (even if the losing process itself is a little painful)?
Keep your change communication up to par I’m a strangely enthusiastic golf fan, so the well-worn Gary Player quote comes to mind. Here’s a multi-major winning champion who, when asked why he seemed to be so lucky around the golf course, came up with a response just as accurate and well-crafted as his legendary backswing. “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.”
In my view, it’s better to communicate more rather than less when facing uncertain times. Share helpful information, communicate the present reality now, and agree a sensible way forward. Above all, be bold and give your people enough time to focus on the right things – the things that will help you to be successful in the face of uncertainty. Because one thing’s for certain, change is gonna come, so you might as well keep talking.
Corin Ashby is Managing Partner at 44 Communications – a Midlands-based Internal Communications specialist and proud member of the 7 Collective.