Have you ever heard the expression “Less is More”? I have, hundreds of times. Most folks that meet me say things like, “Wow, you talk so fast.” During my time in my position, I have had people tell me to slow down in speaking and limit the amount of information that I am sharing. Now, I am a fast talker because I get excited about sharing good news. And because I identify as a change agent, I think of change as a good thing. Not all people share that perspective and not all people can accept change. Especially when it is coming at them fast.
Communicating change always comes down to pace and messaging. What pace are you providing information—how fast or how slow? What methods are you using to communicate, and very importantly, how much of the message is relevant at what time? As you prepare for enacting changes in your organization make sure that you are answering the questions above. Thinking through the process takes time and thinking through the passage of information is very important as well.
For those of you that are marketing experts, communicating change can look very much like a marketing campaign. It must be laid out for you to understand the path that you will be taking in communicating the change. There should be specific dates for the communication that you will be sharing. NOTHING worth doing was ever done quickly. Organizational change is one of those things that takes time and effort from all people involved. It requires a focus on what the end goal is and like a marketing campaign it also requires that the information be substantive and compelling. Lay out your time frames for communication. Make a plan. Take the time to think about what the timing of the messaging will be and how that will affect staff. Do not plan to begin discussing change in your busy seasons. Save that for the slower times in your business when people are beginning to be able to accept more information. The clock is your friend not your enemy. When planning the communication timeframe also keep in mind that a lot of change messaging will not be widely accepted by the masses. This is OK. You want feedback and you want to know that your message is being heard. In the planning stage make sure that there is a contingency for pushing back the timeline. With no timeline, the pushback could lead to the death of the plan. Make sure that communication timelines give the chance for the change to remain viable even if it is not moving forward due to other considerations.
The methods of communicating are equally important. Smaller groups of people make it more intimate to discuss change, especially with major organizational change. Feeding the information to smaller groups gives the person providing the information an occasion to be able to handle the objections that may come through. It provides the change agent with the intimacy that is required to help those that see change as an issue to get the one to one attention that may be needed to get their buy in. Taking this time to discuss this with smaller groups can be very helpful. Additionally, it should be noted that when dealing with organizational change, it is important to take it seriously and not let it be interrupted by other functions. Schedule the meetings to discuss these things in settings that provide for the best chance of the message not to be lost. Consider things you would not normally do, close your business for a period of the day, perhaps close early or open late to accommodate a schedule that will allow the employees to be fully present. Communicating changes during working hours is hectic and often kills the message. Plan to have the meetings, whether virtually or in person at a time that is easiest for your people to hear and ask the questions that they need to ask. Whatever you do, never try to communicate change in a memo or in an email. Organizational change is important, and it must be treated that way or else it will never happen.
The information itself should be broken down into digestible chunks. No one ever sat down and ate the ‘ole 96er’ because their boss told them too. They wanted to do that. With organizational change it is similar. Smaller chunks and then manage the digestion of the information. Most people will want to know the end game: “How is this going to affect me in the end?”. Don’t let the fear of your folks not buying in derail your agenda. Stick to the information that you are presenting. When asked the questions about the end, explain to them that you are intentionally sharing the information in a way that is easy to accept. This should be part of your roll out plan. Like baby steps, you want to be able to eat one piece at a time. That is the only way to eat the Ol’ 96-er; just ask John Candy in The Great Outdoors. One piece at a time finishes the meal. Or, like in the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race. Make sure that the information that is being shared is in succession of the plan itself. Allow the process to unfold. There will be less collateral damage that way. In business collateral damage equals loss. Don’t let that happen.
Finally, make sure that in the communication of change that the plan is set, the pace is slow, and the meal is digestible. This is the best and easiest way to move your agenda through your company. Good Luck!