Communicating Change

by Rus Slater

Timing your communications


In a study of 43 companies communicating major change, the presence of inaccurate rumours was the largest differentiator between successful and unsuccessful communication.

You cannot control the rumour mill, but you can make a reasonably realistic guess at the types of rumours that will appear and then tailor your communication to provide as much solid information as possible.

Typically, organisations do not communicate while planning. Instead, they delay until the plans are definite. This is a terrible mistake.

Unpopular changes always have employee resistance. But communicating late pours gasoline on the fire. By delaying the communication, management hands control to others: angry employees, the union, reporters, and competitors. Rumours run rampant throughout the organisation. Seeing the building chaos and resentment, employees expect their leaders to do something, to say something, to manage the deteriorating situation. But typically management does nothing. They are waiting. Waiting for the plan to become certain so they can begin communicating.

Dr T J Larkin and Sander Larkin, Communicating big change using small communication(2006)

T J Larkin’s approach is that, even though you may not have a definitive message to put out, this shouldn’t stop you from communicating something; hence, his recommendation that your messages move from the ‘uncertain’ towards the ‘more certain’.