In an article at Change Communications at Comunintelligence.com, Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. writes on the importance of communication in the effective management of organizational change.
Goman quotes the prediction of former Fortune magazine editor, Max Ways, 40 years ago: “The main challenge to U.S. society will turn not around the production of goods, but around the difficulties and opportunities involved in a world of accelerating change and ever widening choice. So swift is the acceleration that trying to ‘make sense’ of change will become our basic industry.”
The author agrees, saying that change today is the global environment and organizations worldwide have to deal with the fast pace of technological innovation, customer demands, competitive pressures, globalization and economic volatility to make sure that strategies are not rendered obsolete. To gain competitive advantage, companies need to be able to transform themselves in response to constantly shifting conditions.
Goman believes that in this context leadership means employee engagement and creative collaboration rather than issuing orders or coercing with threats. Management needs to be by influence rather than by position and leaders need to be able to “harness the energies and talents of others while keeping their own egos in check.”
She emphasizes that change management requires emotional literacy, with managers appealing not only to people’s logic but also their hearts. Change managers should encourage and protect their teams, delegate responsibility and authority, and teach attitudes and behaviors by example, thereby becoming catalysts and creating synergy in their organizations.
She asserts that change imposed from the top without workforce participation will be met with skepticism and resistance while the inclusive co-creation of purpose/vision/strategy generates employee engagement.
Thus, the author declares that “effective management of organization change also depends on early, comprehensive, and transparent communication” and “in most cases, the manner in which change is communicated is more important than the nature of that change.”
She says “respected change-managers are powerful communicators who don’t ignore or sugarcoat negativity” and “the most motivational managers are those trusted by their team to share knowledge and tell it like it is.” Change communication in her view should be candid, disclosing both positive and negative aspects of the change.
Goman advises leaders to prepare the workforce early on and reduce the surprise of abrupt change by informing them of the challenges and opportunities that could most likely trigger organizational transformation. Employees should also be taught how to understand financial data, the company’s current situation, trends and forces affecting it, the economic realities of business, the alternatives being considered by the company and the consequences of not changing. This will give employees the ability to accept and even anticipate change.
Once again, proper communication is the key.