Why All the Talk About Communications?

By Kathy Miller on July 10th, 2013

So you made an announcement about an organizational change.  Moreover, you asked the Human Resources Department to follow up with a memo outlining the changes.   And yet people in your organization are complaining that lack of communication is a problem.  Sound familiar? 


In our over thirty years of working with clients to carry out organizational changes, I have witnessed this scenario many times.   Leaders consistently believe that they have communicated information about the changes while those who work for them do not feel that they have received enough communication.  Why the disconnect? 


For starters:


1.       Leaders frequently underestimate the need for continual, clear, repetitive communications.  They think that if they say something once, that should be enough.  I”m reminded of my client who told me that he told his wife once that he loved her and that he would let her know if that changed!  Remember people want to hear from you repeatedly.  You can never communicate too much.


2.       Inevitably change creates anxiety. Communications from the leaders can lessen the fears even if the news is incomplete or carries some difficult messages.  And when people are anxious, they may not comprehend the message the first time that they hear it.  Repeat, repeat, repeat!


3.        Leaders often believe that they should wait until they have firm decisions and plans to communicate with the organization.  Big mistake!  While waiting for the final decisions, the troops will conjure up their own versions of what is going on.  Keep them informed throughout the decision-making process with any information that you can share.  At a minimum tell them about the decision-making process, time-lines etc. 


4.        People want to know how the changes will affect them.  Yet leaders often blanket the entire organization with the same sterile message. While messages certainly must be consistent in themes, they should also address o the diverse needs of the various stakeholders within the organization. 


5.       Many times leaders take the easy way out and use only formal, one-way communications such as memos or speeches. While these formal vehicles serve a purpose, we all know that the most effective communications strategies include informal, two-way communications as well.


We recommend putting together a complete communications strategy to support organizational change.  We at Miller Consultants have designed a number of tools for this purpose.  If you are interested in the tools we have produced, take a look at our tool kit on the Resources page of this website under “Human CapiTools”.


An effective communications strategy can take you miles down the road to successful organizational change.  The strategy must involve leaders communicating early and frequently in the change effort. And you must include informal approaches as well as the more formal speeches and memos.  Hold a breakfast for small groups of people.  Walk the halls from time-to-time hearing and addressing concerns.  Host a regular forum for people to bring you their questions.  Sit down with folks in the dining room and chat informally about the changes.  Take a chance and reconnect in order to eliminate the disconnect. Remember that people get on board with change one person at a time!