In what you might think should be the easiest step to cross of yourlist and prevent your project’s failure or derailment, is actuallywhere 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 theway here is the fear of overcommunicating. The irony is, failure in this step is typically due to undercommunicating…
In 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 Communication
In this pattern, the group may be armed with a good vision but whencommunicating, chooses to do so on the front end of the change effortor project, often in a single or very few meetings/communications. The group is then later “surprised” when few people understand thevision, 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 toassist with communication of the vision, but still very few individuals“buy into” the messaging, due mainly to the fact they lack sufficientunderstanding 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 andmessaging, thus not connecting with the various audiences in a deep andmeaningful 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 damagingmessaging paradigm to your project. In this situation, senior leaders,sponsors or change agents do not behave in a manner consistent with thevision and strategy being communicated as part of the project/changeactivity. This results in a lack of confidence “in the troops” thatleads to execution “gaps” which ultimately will doom your project tofailure. The “hearts and minds” of the associate base must be 100%engaged with unfettered support and belief that the vision is a goodone, and that success is the only option.
When it comes to “aligning the organization to the vision”, it iskey that “the vision” become part of the day-to-day vernacular. Itneeds to be used as a reference, think of a “tactical compass” wheremanagement and change agents can align decisions, activities andresults to how they support the vision. A town hall, newsletter, teammeeting or 1:1 meeting, should not end without “the vision” being partof 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, linemanager needs to find a way to incorporate the “vision” in a way thatis genuine, impactful and relevent to the value proposition they “bringto the table”. This “walking the talk” is not just key, but a requiredsuccess factor to changing behaviours “broadly” across an organizationor within the sphere of influence your project team impacts.
“Walking the Talk” isn’t just a cliche, it’s a supporting validatorto the Communication plan and messaging your team is working so hard toframe 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!