[Excerpt from The Culture Question]
Throughout the entire culture change process, it is imperative that you communicate what is happening! Risk over-communicating rather than under-communicating. A common theme in our survey responses was a lack of communication from leaders. One participant wrote about the impact of poor communication: “Management could do a better job of communicating with other levels. When change occurs now, the rationale behind it is not articulated. As a result, not everyone can gain an understanding of the need for change.” Another participant reported that the lack of communication “causes rumors and worry. People like to know what’s going on, even if it’s not good news – any news is better than no news.”
Over the years, we have heard many excuses for insufficient communication from leadership, including these common ones:
• “Employees don’t need to know yet. When the time comes we will tell them.”
• “We’ve passed this over to human resources, and they will spread the news.”
• “Everyone already knows – I attached a memo in my most recent email.”
If a culture change team ever wonders whether they have communicated enough, they almost certainly have not. Because they are leading the process, the team is always a step or two ahead of everyone else in the organization – they are meeting regularly, reviewing information, and discussing the issues. It is easy for them to assume that others throughout the organization are in a similar place to them in terms of their processing and need for information. This simply isn’t so. The most important solution to this problem is regular communication.
Drawing on William Bridges’ book, Managing Transitions,1 we recommend that culture change leaders focus on these four areas in their communication with the rest of the organization:
• The reasons behind the need for culture change. Some people will need to be reminded that there was a problem with the culture that needed to change. If they had not experienced the old culture as problematic, they might find it difficult to leave behind old ways, particularly when the new ways aren’t yet fully realized. Make sure staff remember that there was an impetus for change.
• The process for change. In the transition from the old to the new, employees will need to be confident in the culture change process. Demonstrate that there is a plan for making the envisioned
culture a reality. When people can’t see the way forward, it’s often easier to return to what was familiar.
• The roles people will play in the change. At a concrete level, each person will need to know what part they will play in making the new vision a reality. Staff will need to be confident about
what they should and should not do. When they are aware of their roles, they will be more focused on the practical ways they can contribute to the new culture.
• The vision for a better culture. Everyone needs to keep the vision for the new culture in mind. Communicating the vision keeps people oriented in the right direction. The vision should be compelling enough that it provides motivation for the hard work of getting there.
William Bridges, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change
(Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2009).
As you work at changing your culture, focusing on each of these areas in your communication enables staff to participate in the journey of culture transformation.
For more FREE RESOURCES on this topic and others, visit our free resources page.