From Assumptions to Alignment: Transforming Change with Effective Communication.
Most change initiatives fail because of ineffective communication.
Organisations look at change strictly from a process and procedural point of view and negate the fact that it takes human beings to implement change. The challenge is that human beings don’t always think, act or react the way we assume they will, nor are they motivated by things we assume.
As much as we would like it to be otherwise, people do not think and act as a collective. We are not the Borg Collective operating from a single premise and responding and complying to a centralised set of commands.
In other words, humans are the X Factor. Humans all come to any scenario with their own hopes, wants, needs, fears, desires and aspirations. They may or may not share a singular context or belief of right, wrong, or what should happen next. With this in mind, effective communication is vital to successfully managing change initiatives. However, before we go any further, we must define what communication is and is not.
Communication does not succeed through a single explanation of what needs to be accomplished. It is not a “one and done” activity that takes the shape of a mandate or an announcement with assumed compliance. Communication is the two-way dialogue between people and groups that enables people to understand the mission, vision and goals, why they are essential and what needs to happen next.
The key is dialogue.
Many people think something is automatically understood and agreed with just because it has been stated. This could not be further from the truth. We do not know what else is going on in someone’s mind as we transfer information and a sense of importance. They may be focused on other projects, their health, their families, politics, religion, or something else. They may not be giving you their full attention and may not fully understand what you need from them.
This is why communication has to be two ways. We need to verify that what we have said has been listened to, understood, agreed with, internalised and can be recalled and retold. If we have not done that, we have not communicated effectively. Yes, this is a lot of effort, but so is redoing projects that you assumed were underway and being focused on when they were not.
We also cannot assume that people will not have questions, concerns and challenges throughout the process of change. This is why ongoing communication is vital. We need to verify that people understand what has happened to date, where we are in the process, where we are going and what you need from them specifically to succeed.
We need to give people the ability to question, raise concerns and challenge assumptions, and that leads to us being more active listeners throughout the process and not assuming that everything is progressing perfectly as planned. . . because it probably isn’t.
Communication has to be available at all levels. People need to be able to say, “I do not understand,” or “There is a problem,” without repercussions. There must be a culture where ideas flow, people listen, and changes happen because the best ideas are brought forward, not just the ideas or concerns of a small group of leaders.
When we foster a culture of open communication, active listening, understanding and valuing each other, people tend to be more focused on the end goal, more engaged, and dedicated to seeing the project succeed.