I recently got in to a twitter discussion about communicating change. It went a little like this. I commented on a tweet that suggested you should focus on the pro’s not the cons and that this was a ‘change management principle’. I commented by saying that ‘honest conversations is a change management principle’ and sometimes you needed to ‘out’ the cons to get to the pro’s. The tweeter came back and said that it ‘depends on the people you deal with’ and knowing your audience was a ‘change management principle’.
Let’s ignore the fact that you can’t have a good exchange of ideas in a medium that is keeps you to 140 words and focus on the idea of communicating the positives in change and that being an audience need.
I have produced communications for change for many clients over many years. In doing so I have found that some get bothered about explaining ‘the problem’ that is driving the change. Many want to focus on the end game that they have begun to envisage and to ‘sell’ that future state, which is much better than current reality. Some just don’t like engaging in ‘hard’ conversations, so they avoid them preferring everyone to be happy. Some see acceptance of current reality as a sign of failure on their part and don’t want to go there.
I normally convince them that starting your change comms with a ‘positive spin’ is a sure fire way of the change failing. Your people always know that there is a problem even if they don’t always know exactly what it is or what to do about it. So pretending there isn’t just means that they won’t respect you or the ideas you are putting forward.
I have a principle that I adhere to and that is ‘nobody buys a solution to a problem they don’t have’. If you’ve got a hole in your shoe you know you need a new pair. But buying a new pair just because a salesperson says you need to? Doesn’t work (for most of us, but let’s not get too focused on shoes!).
It doesn’t matter what the change, I believe people need to understand the problem with staying just as we are now. Whether it is culture change or restructuring I have found that holds true, and no matter how tough the message, people respect it in the long term. So only focusing on the positives? I would say not at the start of communicating a need for change.
Does the audience matter? That idea intrigued me. Do some people need positives only and others only negatives? I believe that whatever behavioral type you are, you still need an honest conversation. Sure there are some who will buy in to the positive reasons for change quicker than others, but a greater majority tend to work through the problems first to get to the positives (if you’d like to know why, then talk to me about our ‘understanding others behaviours’ seminar). If there is a reason for the change people will need to accept that reason, in their way, their style, in their thinking.
So ‘change management principle’: honesty first, positives second!
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Tags: change, change communication plan, change leadership, change management, communicating, communication plan, culture change, downsize, engaging in change, leadership, leading change, planning change, tweets, Twitter, why change fails