How to Lead Communications Around Organizational ChangeChange is hard.

Man, it’s freaking hard.

It’s challenging on a personal level. And when you try to make it on an organizational level it’s even more difficult.

Successful organizational change requires every person in the organization to change their habits and mindset. Neither of which is easy to do as individuals and especially as a collective.

As communicators, we play an important role in change management.

That’s what we are going to discuss today.

(I’m not an expert in change management process. And that is important to understand no matter what role you play in the process. I link to alot of resources to help your understanding in this post.)

Elements of Successful Organizational Change Communications

Seven key elements are required for successful organizational change communications:

  • Mindset
  • Goals
  • Message
  • Leadership
  • Ambassadors
  • Habit Change

And one thing that must be part of ALL of these is consistency. Without consistency in message, application, and execution change won’t be successful. So as we go through these continue to remind yourself that consistency is implied. Like a little ticker tape at the bottom of everything you do.

Organizational Change Starts from Within

The best plan for organizational change will fail if both leadership and employees don’t adjust their mindset first.

Your mindset leads your perception of reality and without a mindset aligned with the change you want to see, you’ll never be able to successfully follow through.

Adjustment in mindset shifts organizational change from aspirational to actionable.

Too often organizations do the work to adjust external circumstances and structure in order to facilitate change but forget (or purposely ignore) mindset.

Gini has discussed mindset a lot here (and here, and here), so I’m not going to go into more detail other than reinforce the need to start with mindset.

The internal will always reflect the external. And it is the law of nature that things like to remain how they are. An organization’s culture will always support doing things the way they have always been done, which often includes reinforcement of bad habits, practices, and opinions hindering growth and progress.

If you don’t change the mindset, you don’t remove the obstacles. No matter how solid your organizational change process and plan. 

Identify the Right Business Goals

Do the current goals and measurements you use to evaluate success align with the new vision of the organization?

Likewise, what goals can you set-up to facilitate change?

A mistake many organizations make is they wish to change the culture and organization, but don’t properly realign goals and success measures to reflect these changes.

This means from leadership to a team level, success measurements don’t connect with the message being transmitted of what success actually looks like.

When you base team member reviews on, promotions, and individual success on data that doesn’t align with the new vision, data will always be prioritized over message.

This means change again stays aspirational vs. actionable.

The first step is to set your new goals and how those goals are effectively measured. Then work backward through how success is measured at every level and make sure those measurements all align.

A good example might be if you want to improve customer experience, but your current measurement for the front line team members who deal with customers encourage quantity over quality. So things like call time or call volume might be data points in a call center. You have to change those measurements in order to change the behavior associated with customer experience.

Measure success based on the organization you want to become. And do this consistently at all levels.

Messaging Determines Understanding

As communicators, this is where we make the magic happen.

The message is everything when it comes to introducing, managing, and engaging team members.

The right messages will:

  • Clearly outline mission, goals, and vision
  • Help team members at all levels feel confident in the “why”
  • Drive team engagement and excitement around change
  • Keep the organization focused
  • Be consistent, clear, and resonate

Dedicate the time needed to:

  • Set the message
  • Create a distribution plan
  • Adjust communication across all parts of the organization so it’s consistent

Leadership Alignment Required

Are the right leaders in place to lead the organizational change?

Big plans require big leaders. This means making sure people at all levels of management are in place, not simply because they are subject matter experts, but because they can lead and motivate teams to excel.

Often times, the biggest obstacles an organization will face in pursuing progressive change are managers that block it out of fear of losing power or control.

The right leaders are crucial to make sure all levels of the organization embrace and adapt to change.

And likewise, ALL leaders need to be on the same page as to how the organizational change is communicated and the goals at all levels.

Regular leadership meetings to keep everyone aligned are crucial for proper change management and progression.

If your role in change doesn’t allow you to influence leadership decisions, you can still support this be providing the right messaging and materials to keep leadership aligned.

Empower Team Influencers as Ambassadors

On every team there are influencers.

They aren’t necessarily leaders in title, but they often wield significantly more power. In a meeting, the situational dynamics will all point to them. They set the tone for how other team members react, respond, and perceive situations.

You need to identify these people and get them on your side. Empower them to drive organizational change implementation.

These organization influencers can make or break you. Help them help you succeed.

Treat these people like you would any other influencer relations campaign.

Habit Change Drives Success

I’m obsessed (OBSESSED) with how habits drive everything we do.

You obviously don’t read enough of my posts, if you don’t know this by now.

So first of all, you need to realign your priorities so my posts are farther up to the top of them.

Then you need to read some of my posts on habits.

Start with this one, which discusses how to change habits for successful organizational culture change.

And after that, you’ll have the tools needed to build habit change into your organizational change plan.

Communication Drives Organizational Change

Whether we lead the change for our own organizations or we drive the communication around it for others, communication is the hub of the wheel.

Our roles as communicators are immeasurably important to the success of organizational change. This means it is also our job to understand the needs around change management process, protocol, and implementation.


Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

View all posts by Laura Petrolino