Organisational changes often flounder because not enough strategic thought is given to communicating the rationale, the progress and the impact of the change. Communications are important as changes are planned and carried forward. Many difficulties often associated with significant change can be more easily dealt with if there is strategic thinking about what and how to communicate. The process should be based on a good grasp of some principles of communication together with an understanding of the change process.
A well-planned communications process can be most helpful in easing the way to the more effective process. Larkin and Larkin in 1994 (Communicating Change: Winning Employee Support for New Business Goals) via their book offered the following three-step advice to organisational leaders that want to communicate change:
- Communicate only facts – stop communicating values which are best communicated through actions, not by words
- Communicate face to face – do not rely on videos, publications or large meetings
- Target front-liners – communicating to this group is too important to be delegated
During transformation, some leaders tend to assume their staff understand what needs to be done. Due to increased pressure, there is sometimes a tendency to shorten directions or reduce communications. This is detrimental as in fact more information is needed during change, and not less. Every staff member needs to assess how he or she will relate to the transformation. Be it a new organisation, a new task or a new technology; people will need to learn how to work together, differently.
Significantly better communication and perception can be achieved by understanding how relationships within the department changes, what is expected from each team member and how the transformation will influence work quality. During change things are always shifting and nothing is permanent. As communication is the key to transformational organisations and change management, it is important for change agents to make their communication complete and clear which involves behaviour, feelings, effects and needs.
The following are communication principles to be incorporated in transformation strategy:
- Message redundancy is related to message retention
- The use of multi-layered media is more effective than the use of just a single channel
- Face-to-face communication is the preferred medium
- The line hierarchy is the most effective organisationally sanctioned communication channel
- Direct supervision is expected and most effective source of communication in organisation transformation
- Opinionated and critical leaders are effective changers of attitudes and opinions
- Personal relevant information is better retained than abstract, unfamiliar or general information