It was President Woodrow Wilson who said, “If you want to make enemies, try and change something.” He was obviously pointing to the challenge of guiding change and transition that any business, or political leader, is painfully familiar with. In a world where one of the only things we can count on is change, most people still resist it and will go to surprising lengths to hang on to the status quo.
The topic of communicating change is a broad one, but some clues are found when looking at change, or transition communications, through the lens of Internal-External Brand Alignment. The core concept of IEBA, is to align what is happening inside the organization with the external promise each brand makes to its customers. The ultimate goal is that the strategy, actions and culture of the organization make intuitive sense to every employee, as it is aligned with the core purpose and promise of the business itself.
Employees May Not Intuitively Understand the Business Case for Change
The business case for change is often linked to abstract strategic objectives that are perfectly clear to the handful of senior leaders who created them, but far less clear (and far less inspiring) to the company as a whole. For example, the change program might look something like: integrating and consolidating the purchasing function of a global organization; transitioning to a new technology platform; shifting the territories or regions of the organization; or introducing a new reporting structure. Think for a minute of all the strategic change initiatives you may have been involved with in the past year alone. You will most likely come up with your own fairly lengthy list.
Look at your list and consider how you relate to change. Now, think about how your team will relate to change. Are you aligned with the change and ready to make the steps necessary to see it through or are you relating to the change as a lot of extra work and hassle with very little benefit? How about your team?
Now, think about how the change is connected to your core promise to customers. How will the change allow the organization to more effectively fulfill that promise both now, and in the future? Do you see a clear connection? Will your team see a clear connection? This can be a challenging inquiry but a useful one. The clearer the connection between the change initiative and the fulfillment of the promise to customers, the more intuitive sense the change will make to the people expected to not only survive but drive the process.
Change is Easier When We Understand the Purpose and End Result
We are far more open to change when we are clear about the purpose and aligned with the end result. I always think about remodeling a kitchen. It’s going to be messy, disruptive and take longer then you expected. The only reason to go through the process is if the purpose is clear and the end result is compelling.
This is an easy, if not obvious, exercise. But, after spending the past couple decades working with global organizations on a host of extensive change initiatives, it is my experience that many don’t take the time to explore this connection. It is also my experience that many change initiatives go up in flames or are far more painful than they might be due, at least in part, to change communication that fails to provide a compelling and intuitive context for the value of the activity.
Internal alignment is always important, but becomes even more important during times of transition and change. Aligning your internal change with your core purpose for existence as an organization will go a long way to advance the process.
What is your experience with alignment during change and transition? How have you effectively made the case for change?
For other thoughts on change, be sure to check out these articles: