Managing Change: Communication Matters

It is not an unknown fact that the reason that a change effort can fail is because the people who are responsible to actually execute the effort, on a daily basis, don’t believe in the change. Organizations can have great ideas, brilliant ones even, but if the people who are meant to do the job don’t believe in it and ultimately don’t support it, it’s best to throw in the towel early and accept that they won’t execute on it. The change will fail.

So, during a discussion with a friend, I doodled something a bit like this on a paper:

What does it mean?

Real simple, it demonstrates that the problem is one of perspective. Change agents and visionaries always have a long-range, high-level, long-term view: they can see further and they’re looking at the change from that aspect.

Mid-level managers and functionaries sometimes are in a position to see somewhere at the mid-point, and they can visualize some benefits (the “shelf” in this diagram), but often times they can’t even see as far as they would like; they’re jobs and focus prevent that.

And lastly, your most junior of people, or furthest from the initation of change (but probably the ones most impacted), a lot of times, they’re so focused on the work that needs to get done, that they have neither the time nor energy to look past or around that. They simply can’t – and so, any change can feel daunting, misguided, or just plain silly.

So, let’s talk about how to overcome this.

A good change agent understands that perspective, or let’s call that perception can be reality, and so their goal is to shift the perceptions of those who don’t have the immediate benefit of sitting at their 10,000 foot level. They can see what’s happening at the end state and certain items leading up, but they have limited visibility into the realities at the equally important points before that.

Therefore, a good change agent recognizes that their goal is open up effective lines of communication. Let’s reconsider that diagram:

It’s almost ridiculously obvious now, isn’t it? There are areas of overlap between change agents and managers, and managers and workers – those areas, those points of integration, need to be discussed and understood together. And the areas outside of that are the sole province of each particular group to accurately and effectively communicate the benefits, the challenges, and the opportunities.

Effective change is deeply intertwined with effective communication, full stop. So, as change agents and managers of change, let’s always keep communication at the forefront; it’s more than worth its weight in driving successful change.

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