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Change management: Be frank in conveying a new strategy

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Here’s how to communicate change more effectively with less work.

A CEO held six big town-hall meetings with employees to present the new company strategy. Every seat was filled. Everybody seemed to be paying attention. Yet, now nothing was happening.

The reason? A survey of employees showed that 70% understood the strategy, only about 60% agreed with it and more than half didn’t have a clue what they were supposed to do next.

More specifically:

• The CEO put together a far too complicated presentation:
too many charts, too much data. He needed to sum it up in three main points—clear, simple and succinct—followed by “Here’s what you can do with this.”

• Employees had questions but didn’t ask them.
They didn’t want to seem dumb, or that they were challenging the boss. He needed to be more open. Why was this change happening? Was the company in trouble?

• People had a nagging feeling
that if the managers were serious about change, they would ask employees for their ideas “and not just talk at us.”

To avoid getting tuned out, even on something this big, take these steps:

1. Drop the outmoded model.
Developed in the middle of the 20th century, it goes like this: Information = communication. Today, information is everywhere. Not good enough.

2. Simplify the story. Your employees don’t need to hear a complex strategic plan. They just have to understand the strategy and be able to apply it to their jobs. They should be able to ask questions and help answer them.

3. Cut yourself a break. The CEO spent hours creating what he thought was the perfect presentation. The irony is that he could have done more with less: no PowerPoint and no prepared remarks; just straight talk, an informal Q&A and time to explore issues.

— Adapted from “Are You Talking To Your People Or At Them?” Alison Davis, The Conference Board Review.

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