Ineffective communication will kill your change initiative

Whilst there is resounding acknowledgement of the impact of communication and its criticality in the success of change initiatives, the actual implementation of effective communication continues to be a challenge during most change initiatives. Technologist and IT practitioners are particularly well renowned not to have those soft skills associated to communication; this is not to exonerate other professionals in other functions who sometimes may be the change agents or lead change initiatives where you may also have across communication challenges. However, my background is mainly technology, therefore, my world view will be influenced by my background and experience i.e. technology, although, I am consciously aware of those views and I am able to extricate them from my articles.

Many researchers – Beer & Einstant (2000), Elving (2005),  Peng & Litteljohn (2001), Palmer, Dunford & Akin (2009), DiFonzo & Bordia (1998), Bruch, Gerber & Maier (2005), Clampitt & Berk (1996), Fox & Amichai-Hamburger (2001)whom have investigated the relationship between successful change initiatives and communication, have noted how critical and important it is to get communication right during periods of uncertainties which is an attribute of most change initiatives.

Most change agents and change sponsors also now recognise the criticality of  communication but despite the acknowledgement and recognition, why does it remain extremely difficult to effectively communicate during change programmes?Fox & Amichai-Hamburger (2001) opined that there must be recognition by the message deliverer to be aware of the emotional realms of those receiving the messages. My experience from various change initiatives really backs the aforementioned argument. The interpretation of a message by the hearer is influenced by a lot of factors. In Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), it is widely stated that the “meaning of your communication is the response you get“.  Whilst a “fire and forget approach” to communication may be required when broadcasting messages during change initiatives, it will hardly achieve anything.

Although, I do not have answers and no management practitioner or researcher will claim to have answers that can help you completely eliminate ineffective communication, there are ways in which you can increase the effectiveness of your communication in order to simply simplify the complexities of your change initiatives therefore removing  one of the key barriers to success.

Some of the ways in which you can achieve effective communication with references are listed below:

  1. Measure the results of communication: http://h30499.www3.hp.com/t5/Discover-Performance-Blog/Best-practices-for-effective-communication-for-organizational/ba-p/5515197#.UoipfhBFeW4
  2. Be honest even when the consequences were possibly negative –  http://www.change-management.com/tutorial-communications.htm
  3. A communication is complete only when the receiver has integrated, understood, and applied the message. – See more at: http://changeleadersnetwork.com/free-resources/six-faulty-assumptions-about-change-communications#sthash.X9xzTFS2.dpuf
  4. Collaboration is very important – http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/what_successful_transformations_share_mckinsey_global_survey_results
  5. Feedback loops should not be underestimated – http://www.bcg.com/expertise_impact/Capabilities/People_Organization/Change_Management/ExpertInterview.aspx?interviewId=tcm:12-25685&personId=tcm:12-10493&pt=U2VuaW9yIFBhcnRuZXIgJiBNYW5hZ2luZyBEaXJlY3Rvcg==&practiceArea=Change%2BManagement
  6. Communication is both outbound and inbound – http://www.boozallen.com/media/file/138137.pdf.
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