Leaving aside a lack of preparedness of the transformation, one of the most likely pitfalls would be a unilateral communication. Most of the material supporting a transformation is framed in positive terms. It is all about how the change will turn the organisation into a better one, and how there can only be upsides to consider. This viewpoint reflects the beliefs of the project team and its sponsor, who have battled sceptics in and around the boardroom and have won the argument. However, such content will only resonate with staff who are easily sold on the merits of the change, because they either benefit from it or are not affected by it. For all people having something to lose from the transformation, a reinforcing message will generate passive resistance in the hope that this transformation is not there to stay.
In addressing this problem, acknowledging that staff in the organisation have different goals, beliefs and perceptions linked to their work is a first step. Identifying how the change will impact whom is a second. And developing narratives to address legitimate concerns about specific interests is a third. It requires the agility to reframe the message in order to mitigate the fears caused by the change. These fears can be wide-ranging, going from responsibilities of a new role to new tools and techniques to master, to changes in reporting lines, and redundancies of colleagues. Staff are unlikely to tune in on a brainwashing communication that leaves them with more questions than answers. As a collateral, the management will not be fully trusted and all stops will not be pulled for the transformation to be a success.
So, when you plan to communicate about things that are about to change in your organisation, ask yourself the following questions to ensure that your messaging will reach all parties with the desired impact:
- What are the constituents of your organisation? How will the change affect them?
- What is their currency? How should you express the merits of the transformation to gain them over?
- Are there mechanisms in place to establish a two-way communication between the programme office and the different constituents?
- Are you able to reframe the message to factor in the reactions from the impacted constituents?