Why Projects Fail – Kotter Step 4/8 –  Don’t Under Communicate

In what you might think should be the easiest step to cross of your list and prevent your project's failure or derailment, is actually where I have seen many a change effort fail. In the fourth of a series of posts I am writing on Change Management, where we last left off was around Crafting The Vision – with vision in hand, why does this next step cause such challenges? Well, in my experience, one of the “myths or barriers” that get in the way here is the fear of overcommunicating. The irony is, failure in this step is typically due to undercommunicatingIn the (well written) HBR article Leading Change: Why Transformations Fail, John P. Kotter describes three common patterns followed by change agents:Pattern #1 “Here Ye, Here Ye” – Shot-Gun CommunicationIn this pattern, the group may be armed with a good vision but when communicating, chooses to do so on the front end of the change effort or project, often in a single or very few meetings/communications. The group is then later “surprised” when few people understand the vision, even those who might have been part of the initial “commnication” effort.Pattern #2 “I Have A Communication Plan – I Am Good”In this scenario, more effort, time and resources are mobilized to assist with communication of the vision, but still very few individuals “buy into” the messaging, due mainly to the fact they lack sufficient understanding and context to really make the vision “real” to them. The communication efforts, though on paper appear to be complete, aren't sufficient enough in frequency, varied enough in medium and messaging, thus not connecting with the various audiences in a deep and meaningful way.Pattern #3 “I Hear What You Are Saying, But You Are Not Walking The Talk”This pattern is the most common, and unfortunately, most damaging messaging paradigm to your project. In this situation, senior leaders, sponsors or change agents do not behave in a manner consistent with the vision and strategy being communicated as part of the project/change activity. This results in a lack of confidence “in the troops” that leads to execution “gaps” which ultimately will doom your project to failure. The “hearts and minds” of the associate base must be 100% engaged with unfettered support and belief that the vision is a good one, and that success is the only option.When it comes to “aligning the organization to the vision”, it is key that “the vision” become part of the day-to-day vernacular. It needs to be used as a reference, think of a “tactical compass” where management and change agents can align decisions, activities and results to how they support the vision. A town hall, newsletter, team meeting or 1:1 meeting, should not end without “the vision” being part of the “back drop” or the “main act”. If your vision involves becoming a “customer focused” organization, then everyone, from the VP of sales down to the shop floor, line manager needs to find a way to incorporate the “vision” in a way that is genuine, impactful and relevent to the value proposition they “bring to the table”. This “walking the talk” is not just key, but a required success factor to changing behaviours “broadly” across an organization or within the sphere of influence your project team impacts.”Walking the Talk” isn't just a cliche, it's a supporting validator to the Communication plan and messaging your team is working so hard to frame and articulate. To quote the article, Nothing undermines change more than behaviour by important individuals that is inconsistent with their words.”Here is a link on Change Management and Communication you might find informative as additional supporting material.In my next article we will hit Step 5 In Kotter's Change Model – This one is all about Empowerment…see you then!Liked this post? Browse through all my posts here. Thanks…Pedro Or better yet, Subscribe to my blog now!

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