Without Clear Communication, Forget About Sustaining Transformational Change

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Affirmation. Sometimes we seek it, other times it finds us—even where we least expect it.

Yesterday it hit me like a bolt from the blue as I was reading the McKinsey & Company article, “The Four Building Blocks of Change.”

As a writer, I believe in the transformative power of the written and spoken word. In business, words not only engage your key audiences (employees, customers, investors, etc.) but they actually change perceptions and behaviors.

The McKinsey article reminded me just how true this is. Writing about large-scale organizational change, authors Tessa Basford and Bill Schaninger noted: “In both research and practice, we find that transformations stand the best chance of success when they focus on four key actions to change mind-sets and behavior: fostering understanding and conviction …”

I stopped reading immediately. My eyes scanned the phrase a second time. Fostering understanding and conviction. It was the first action on the list. My unexpected moment of affirmation washed over me. There’s only one way to foster understanding and conviction, I thought to myself: with words.

If you want to bring about real and lasting change in your organization (and this is true for organizations of all sizes), you must communicate. Basford and Schaninger make it abundantly clear why this is so. “Believing in the ‘why’ behind a change can inspire people to change their behavior. In practice, however, we find that many transformation leaders falsely assume that the ‘why’ is clear to the broader organization and consequently fail to spend enough time communicating the rationale behind change efforts.”

One of the reasons this happens, the authors say, is due to a phenomenon known as the “curse of knowledge.” People—even savvy business leaders—have a hard time accepting that others don’t know what they know. “Therefore, in times of transformation, we recommend that leaders develop a change story that helps all stakeholders understand where the company is headed, why it is changing, and why this change is important,” write Basford and Schaninger.

So there it was. My moment of affirmation—external validation that something I believe in and often evangelize is true. Words have power. Communication matters. And not just when it comes to personal relationships or the spiritual and philosophical worlds. Communication is essential to fostering understanding and conviction in the pragmatic business world—especially for companies interested in making and sustaining transformational change.

 

Photo credit: TG14_100714_RL5E4822_1920 via photopin (license)

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