Communications’ Role in Transformation

Communications is the heartbeat of change, constantly providing information flow to many places and people so change can happen effectively.  To make change, new mindsets and behaviors need to happen.  Without it, there is no change; there is only confusion, chaos and “I don’t get it” from the people you need most to embrace it, or at least understand it.  That is true both inside the organization and externally to customers.  Relevant explanation timed to reach folks before and during the transformation process will set the guidelines for expected behaviors and new thinking and ultimately move the transformation along a faster path to success.  At any given time, organizations are in transformation.  Sometimes transformation stems from a department that has been tasked with thinking differently about a product, while other times it’s a company-wide initiative driven by market needs, revenue failures or new leadership teams.  In cases of company-wide transformation, a vision is often announced, but the real effectiveness comes in from the continuous sharing of information and updates that can bring your employees and customers along the journey.

Ambiguity during transformation is always viewed negatively, ongoing updates and checkpoints can calm rumors and stoke passion for the change.  Other times, the seeds of transformation are planted through a pivot within one area of an organization that can inspire the company and serve as building blocks for larger organizational change.  Communicating the thinking and reasoning for transformation can build excitement and prevent cynics from dooming it before it has even started.

In 2013, a casual dining chain was looking to reinvigorate its brand and present itself in new ways to new customers.  The company embarked on a transformation in the way it operated, the food it served, the people it hired and the experience it brought to its customers.  Every employee needed to understand the vision and stay focused on it as time progressed.  However, the company forgot to communicate the vision and its progress to key influential external audiences who continued to talk about the organization from an old point of view.  We helped develop a timeline of effective communications to influencers, analysts, the media and customers that turned those external audiences to not only understanding the transformation, but rooting for its success and celebrating milestones along the way.

Leaders need to develop a communications strategy early and be in lockstep with the transformation process.  Understanding what people need to know and communicating in ways that are relevant can speed up organizational transformation and have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Five Rules for Communicating Change:

  1. Know your audience intimately – the best way to communicate change is human-to-human
  2. Explain why
  3. Ensure the audience understands what is in it for them
  4. Act differently to signal change
  5. Measure effectiveness as you progress to recalibrate messaging as needed