change management and communication

So you’re making a change and have to communicate to a large staff group – how tempting is it to do this by email, newsletter or minutes? It is easier, quicker and avoids confusion or so the thinking goes.

If you’ve ever been guilty of adopting this approach you might be interested to know that it sometimes creates more problems. It is better to …communicate with purpose and don’t rush

Well of course our time is precious and we should use it wisely! DUH this is self-evident but it shouldn’t dictate how we choose to communicate with others.

Don’t make all your decisions based on the importance of your time when choosing how you share a change intitiative with others. Getting your message across clearly and unambiguously is as important, if not more important than saving time.

time pressure in change management

Before we revert to electronic or written messaging as a default in communicating change think about what we loose from face to face discussion.

Take extra care in choosing your words

If you are communicating with someone you only have a casual relationship then you have to remember that they have no background or relationship with you from which to infer meaning or context to your words.

Two studies have shown that if those receiving our ‘written’ messages’ don’t know us, or the context of our message, they will “fill in the gaps with stereotypes and potential faulty guesses”.

So while it is quicker and easier to send an email it is much better to consider spending the time in talking through the change directly with those affected.

It might be useful to consider the following questions when deciding to use electronic versus face to face communication – one author suggests we ask ourselves the following questions

  1. Is it important for you to gauge the response of your audience to ‘modulate’ you message?
  2. Are you looking to develop or build on a relationship?
  3. Is there a conflict or problem that requires a resolution?
  4. Is the issue being explored complex or intricate in nature?
  5. Are you wanting to persuade, get commitment or buy in to your cause?

And I have added the following to the list.

  • Can you communicate your message more fully or passionately in person?

A hierarchy of communication options

Yet others suggest we consider our communication options as a hierarchy and choose the option that best suits are need.

“E-mail is great for scheduling and confirming meetings, phone is good for quick conversations that require two-way communications and a memo is preferred for long background pieces. In-person and scheduled meetings are always the best for any discussion requiring true dialogue and consensus.”

Change is complicated! So lets take every opportunity to talk to each other

In managing change face to face discussions are critical to building a shared understanding and commitment.

When we meet and talk with each other we engage in the art of ‘turn taking’. Turn taking is an approach that is important for social interactions, it lets us know that our message is being received in the way we intended.

We are also building ‘brain synchronization‘ between all of those involved in the conversation.

Research from the Human Dynamics Laboratory suggests that when we meet face to face the quality and number of the ideas generated increases. So somehow the process of meeting, talking and engaging is a predictor of our productivity.

The process also leads to more trust

 “The more team members directly interact with each other face-to-face, and the more they trust other team members, the more creative and of higher quality the result of their teamwork is.”

All of these elements are core to introducing and managing change – so my prescription is meet often and seek input in small or large, formal or informal ways throughout a change management process.

Have fun also.

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About the author – Helen Attrill, MBA

Hi, Just a bit about myself – I have over 26 years as a leader in the aged care and not for profit sector and have led the successful implementation of significant sector, profession and organisational change.

If you’re struggling with some aspect of change management or frustrated with your progress then maybe I can help please feel free to contact me by emailing me at

I can also help with a range of other executive expertise when time has got the better of you and your executive team – ask me if you need to ‘bridge a gap’.

To find out more about my work visit Meet Helen page.A