For a long time now, Kurt Lewin’s 3-phase-model has been the accepted image of the contribution that change management and change communication make in an organisation:
- Step 1 – “Defreeze”
- Step 2 – Change
- Step 3 – “Refreeze”
This model implies that a change process is finite and will move an organization from “prior-to-change-state” to “post-change-state”. This idea has worked well as long as stability has been the rule and fundamental changes were the exception. Nonetheless, these times are over for most industries.
Today, employees no longer believe that they have to go through only one more difficult patch to make everything better and safer at the end. Instead, experience has taught us that one change process is always succeeded by the next. And if you follow the thought leaders in many industries, the changes in our environment will be more radical and faster than anything ever before.
Communication of change needs a new narrative
Companies need to develop a new understanding of change. The ability to adapt and innovate quickly and on an ongoing basis will determine the future survival of these companies. Classical hierarchical organisations do not offer the best conditions for this as their mechanisms are optimized for efficiency and discipline.
If the ability to change continuously is to be sustainably anchored in a company, this means it must above all reach and be lived by all employees. Therefore, with regards to organisational change and communication, a significantly higher focus must be placed on the participation of employees.
What does this mean for those responsible for communication?
To start with, it is important to promote an attitude which recognizes employees as stakeholders of the organisation, instead of as available resources. Transparency and communication at eye level instead of whitewashing are prerequisites for trust and participation. Organisational communication must move away from one-sidedly sending messages. Instead, it needs to create spaces in which dialogue and participation can take place. In addition to proven physical formats, digital spaces and instruments such as internal social networks, serious games or virtual and augmented reality can also be used for this purpose.
To ensure that these spaces are filled with life, the creation of a community or sub-communities and the identification of the employees with such a community is central. Only if employees feel that they are part of something larger, will they use their full potential. The task of communication is therefore to support a sense of belonging, for example by conveying offers of purpose and development and enabling managers and employees.
How to structure communication within the organization?
If narration and explanation remain important facets of communication and yet the experience of messages is becoming ever more important – what does this mean for the organisation of communication within a company? Frequently, the competencies for the required communication activities are spread across various departments such as corporate communications, human resources, marketing and organizational development. In this scenario, competition, the involvement of big egos and the coexistence of organisational silos carries the risk of considerable friction losses between these departments.
To reduce these losses and ensure an integrated employee experience, there are basically two possible solutions: the re-sorting and bundling of the necessary competencies in an integrated unit or the establishment of new formats of cross-functional cooperation for the tasks of people experience management.
Tags: change communication