Haris Ahmed of Chicago: Communicating Change
Haris Ahmed, a Chicago consultant, is the owner of management consulting company Pragmatium Consulting Inc., a firm that helps companies improve their performance and operations.
When it comes to change, human beings—time and time again—have shown that they are wired for aversion, instead of openness. Generally, this is so because of fear, or rather, people’s fear for the unknown. However, managers and executives can clear up this cloud of uncertainty upon them by communicating change effectively. Whether you’re in a small startup or in a large organization, here are helpful questions to ask when crafting your communication strategy. These should break down your message of change further so recipients are more likely to be responsive to it.
1. What is the change?
Before anything else, identify exactly what the change is. For instance, is it a local or global event or trend that will impact the organization? Is it an internal one, such as a change in processes or practices? This may sound obvious but perhaps that is so because of the dangerous assumption that everyone is on the same page with each other. In large organizations especially, managers and leaders should be wary of having their message diluted or changed as it travels through different communication vehicles. In a nutshell, communicating clearly what the change is should not leave any room for speculation or misinterpretation, which can raise people’s defenses, thereby leading them even further to resist the change.
2. Who will be affected by it?
As previously established, people are commonly averse to change because of fear. Apart from this uncertainty, they may also be resistant to change because of loss of control, security, or some personal advantage they perceive. As such, it’s critical to identify who will be affected by this change so you can allocate more of your time in planning your message around them. When developing your communication strategy, ask: will it affect employees directly? How will they be affected? Is the change a one-time occurrence or gradual? On the other hand, how relevant is the change if it will indirectly affect employees only? Similar to breaking down what the change is in clear terms, the importance of this exercise is to protect the integrity of your organization. For instance, a planned layoff is a major change that should be communicated carefully. This is because its effects can go beyond those who are let go and affected directly, impacting overall employee morale.
3. Why do you have to adapt?
On the part of managers, executives, decision-makers, or professionals in positions of leadership, outlining the consequences of failing to adapt may provide them a sense of urgency that can spring them into action. Conversely, they may also determine the rewards of adapting to change which can give their organization a competitive advantage. Often, change is regarded by businesses as an obstacle or adversity but when viewed through a lens of opportunity, it’s potentially what can lay the foundations for a change-responsive workforce that is flexible and resilient all at the same time.
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