here's how you can empower change through communication
By Mark van den Boogaart Published June 2018
As The Captain said to the rebellious Cool Hand Luke in the classic 1967 movie:
‘What we have here is a failure to communicate’.
While change may be inevitable, in the workplace it’s here, right now, and to empower change, we need to communicate.
If you follow Change 101 you’ll know the first thing you need is a burning platform, and while this approach can create some urgency for change, it can also create unintended consequences.
The first is; if change is slow, or delayed then it’s not too hard to go from Smokey the Bear to Chicken Little. Change fatigue is real, don’t create an environment of hurry up and wait.
Secondly, the burning platform approach might just trigger a fight or flight response. The last thing you need while trying to empower change is conflict, absenteeism, presenteeism and maybe even a combination of all three.
The thing is, change is something we deal with every day, in a positive way. There’s a reason why you put on clean socks every morning, yeah you know you should do it, yeah you know that it’s necessary, however there is another important reason, it provides personal benefit, and depending on the proximity of others, it benefits others as well.
Generally, the burning platform approach is supported by the rule of vague, that is whatever you do don’t give too much away. If you don’t know all the answers be non-committal, as you don’t want to inadvertently, say the wrong thing.
Of course, without information, rumour flourishes. People talk, they speculate, they hear things, see things and in times of stress they connect the dots. Basically, if you create a communication void, people will start coming up with their own answers.
Ok, so now that we’ve thrown out the standard change management playbook - here are my 5 key points.
Help people understand the why, and be honest about it. People have a good idea what is going on, engage with them, ask them what they know, or think they know and keep it up.
Recognise the past, acknowledge it, and even celebrate it. All too often when trying to sell change, people talk up the future, by rubbishing the past. However, it all likelihood the old way of doing things was once upon a time best practice. Rather frame change as simply the next step in a continuing best practice approach.
Help people understand the ramifications of not changing. Explain the necessity of change, even if you are not driving it. People want to know why, and even if they don’t agree with it – they will be more willing to participate if they have an understanding of what, and why things are changing.
Let people see the positives and let them see themselves benefitting from the positives. If people can’t see themselves in the future, they won’t be empowered to move towards it.
Finally promote active participation. Don’t disconnect people from the change process, get them involved, they might surprise you.