How to create a change story that makes sense

When your company is encountering a major change or what we consultants might call a transformation it is important to put in writing a communication material. A change story that you can communicate easily and understandably. The story needs to communicate what you are doing and why. Otherwise you will not get commitment. The hard work required will go to waste due to a landscape of worrying and complaining, also called change resistance. Still it often seems, that the importance of spot on communication is overlooked. Putting the focus into processes and software, possibly forgetting the people and who’s everyday work is going to be different in the future.

Change resistance is often overcome, since there is many times no other choice than to adapt to what has been decided for you. But things could be achieved much faster and with many less upset minds, if companies would invest more in communication, proper trainings and change support.

Here is our top 8 list of things to consider when you start a development program that aims to change how things are done or organized:

1.      Create a positive environment for change. Do what you can for people to feel relaxed, happy and safe. Inspire them and help them see the positive in what you are trying to do. Listen and try to understand. But be frank and firm in the things you cannot compromise on.

 2.      Define how things should be, not how people want them to be. Change is about improving the performance of your company, which can be achieved in many different ways. But you need to look at things from the perspective of your strategy and what is required to make things happen. If you try to please everyone, you will not get where you need to be.

3.      Change you can believe in. You need to have a real reason for why you are doing things. A story that communicates what you are doing and why. It cannot be fiction. People will see through you and call your bluff.

4.      Why it makes sense for the company? The first part of the change story is communicating why the company is doing what it is doing. Why there is a need for changing and why the reasons make sense. Tell people why you believe the future will be better for everyone, if you succeed in making the planned changes.

 5.      What does it mean for me? You need to be able to communicate what the role of each and every one is in the transformation. You might not have exact answers at first, but you should be able to tell people how the change is going to concern them. How it will affect their lives.

 6.      Only physical or concrete evidence is convincing. You need to show people, that things will change and that they can be changed for the better. If there is just empty talk and no action, people will not see the change. And if they don’t see it, they will not believe it will or can happen.

7.      Start with something small that will succeed. Starting with something small (not futile) that succeeds strengthens the path forward. Consider the opposite: you start with something abstract and difficult, that takes a year to complete.

8.      Sharing and celebrating success. Easy and simple, but easy to forget. Sharing successful experience helps  concretize the benefits of the new way of doing things. Celebrating milestones and jobs done well also helps strengthen the feeling that something is happening. Just remember that the things you celebrate need to be worth celebrating. Otherwise it will feel fake and ridiculous.

When we are trying to make things happen it is easy to forget the obvious, since it is not uncommon to have a lot on our plate. Great companies and leaders put effort in listening and creating understanding already before the final decisions are made. The advantage of this is also, that you get a lot of valuable feedback on what you are planning to do. Making the first version of the future a significant step better, already before Day 1.

Change is hard, but we can make it a lot easier, if we want to. My key-word is anticipation. Trying to resolve or limit possible future obstacles before they start causing trouble. If we just react and adapt, we can easily lose focus of the target or fall behind in schedules. We often fail to communicate, when we are too busy doing things.

If we focus too much on what is urgent, we will easily forget what is important. Also when it comes to driving change.