“It is not the strongest that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to CHANGE.” - Charles Darwin.
Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” - John F. Kennedy
When we talk about successful business transformation, we are essentially talking about well-managed change.
A survey of European executives conducted by global consultants CapGemini in consultation with the Economist Intelligence Unit entitled Trends in Business Transformation summarised: “The need for business transformation has never been greater in the modern organisation. But while companies are gradually becoming accustomed to being in the midst of constant change, they often lack the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in such an environment.”
One of the key success factors in achieving business transformation was noted as being the delivery of effective communication – at all stages of the transformation project.
It starts with the communication of the vision. The CapGemini report states that: “The effective communication of vision obviously has a role to play in all these things, and our interviewees were unanimous in their view that it was the most important ingredient in successful transformation.”
So what constitutes a well-communicated vision?
“To be successful, a transformation project must be referenced continuously to the future state of the organisation,” says Professor Scase of the University of Kent.
“The CEO must set a vision for the future that provides a context, and therefore a rationale, an explanation for transformation. And this vision must be reiterated continuously throughout the life of the project. Otherwise, the understanding of why it is being done may be lost.”
Referencing the positive future state of an organisation and the benefits of transformation are key ingredients in early communication. Steve Jobs was recognised for his ability to create and communicate a vision. He painted a clear picture of how and why his products would transform the way we do things – for the better. It is this type of communication that key organisational leaders need to draw upon to motivate and inspire their employees to “live the change”.
But communication plays a vital role in business transformation well beyond the vision.
Darrin Wikoff, a consultant and change management professional who has worked in Australia as part of Alcoa’s global initiative, identified the following core communication messages essential to the success of business transformation projects:
- What role will I play in the change process? – Recognise the “early adopters” and provide them with a clear role in “getting things done”.
- Where is the resistance to change? – Develop a mechanism to uncover potential paths of resistance to change.
- Displaying your commitment to change – Use communication to help employees understand that this business transformation project is not a “flavour of the month.”
- How will the change affect me? – Fifty-two per cent of people engaged in the transformation effort prefer to have their direct supervisor communicate how the changes will affect them.
When communicating role changes or changes to systems or tools that the employee uses day-to-day, direct supervisors are the most effective as a result of their relationship with the individual. Good communication is two-way communication. It is not simply “passing on information”. The messages communicated, as well as when, how and to whom should all be considered as well as ensuring the delivery is made with honesty and consistency. This includes communicating bad news, if necessary, rather than not communicating at all, as employees will often fill gaps in communication with their own (often worst case) conclusions.