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When you’re ready to make or introduce a change in your organization, how do you tell employees about it? Or do you?
Last week, I wrote about some research that McKinsey did on organizational transformations. One of the findings was that communication is key to a successful transformation. (This seems to be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised.)
How successful? McKinsey reports:
At companies where senior managers communicate openly and across the organization about the transformation’s progress, respondents are 8.0 times as likely to report a successful transformation as those who say this communication doesn’t happen. Good communication has an even greater effect at enterprise-wide transformations, where company-wide change efforts are 12.4 times more likely to be successful when senior managers communicate continually.
One of the questions that executives were asked as part of this research was whether or not they used a consistent change story to align the organization around the transformation’s goals. The finding?
This type of communication is not common practice, though. When asked what they would do differently if the transformation happened again, nearly half of respondents (and the largest share) wish their organizations had spent more time communicating a change story.
We know that stories are not only a powerful communication vehicle but also an important teaching tool. Stories allow you to deliver a message in a way that engages people, inspires them, and helps them understand a desired or intended outcome as a result of a series of steps or actions taken. So it’s not surprising that stories become an important tool in your communication toolbox.
Why tell a change story as opposed to some other way of communicating the changes, like dictating what’s about to happen, which happens all too often? Dictating change is going to be faced with resistance, no doubt; stories, on the other hand, not only teach but also…
- clarify and help employees/your audience understand
- give background information
- convey what the characters (employees, customers) think, do, feel
- bring a concept or experience to life
- engage employees
- explain the ideal experience
- sell (concepts and products)
- support and reinforce the need for change
- motivate and inspire
- facilitate empathy and understanding
- make people want to care
- help employees connect
- draw employees in, want to be a part of it
- help employees relate
- convey good and bad, successes and failures
- are memorable
It’s not enough to just tell a story. You need to tell a specific story, and it needs to communicate:
- the change, the vision
- its purpose/raison d’etre
- the intended outcome
- employees’/participants’ part in executing
- impact on participants
- impact on corporate culture
- impact for customers and their experience
- impact on the business
Communicate early and often. Keep the story going. As changes are made, update the story. But keep telling it.
Stories are the single most powerful tool in a leader’s toolkit. -Howard Gardner
Annette, I once worked for a chief executive who was very adept at using analogies to reinforce his point. The one that sticks with me was his insistence that we should become a triple A organisation. Not as an investment rating but simply an And, And, And organisation.
Stories are very powerful.
James, you just hit on the point that stories are memorable. You've taken that one with you over the years. That is powerful.