Communicating the vision for success in corporate organizational transformation

Whether it’s the reengineering project in the accounting department, the new 360-degree performance appraisal from the HR department, or a quality program in a manufacturing plant, transformation requires a picture of the future that is easy to communicate with appeal to employees, customers, and other key stakeholders.

Beyond the numbers in a typical business plan, the vision should say something that helps clarify the direction in which the organization needs to move. Otherwise, the transformation effort may dissolve into a list of confusing, incompatible projects that take the organization down the wrong path — or nowhere at all.

Thick notebooks filled with tabbed sections of pages describing a change effort with mind-numbing detailed procedures, goals, methods, and deadlines don’t offer much value without a clear, compelling statement of where it’s al leading to inspire and rally everyone together.

Rule of thumb: Strive to communicate the vision in five minutes or less and get a reaction that signifies understanding and interest.

Common perils of undercommunicating the vision

Scenario 1: The leadership coalition develops a good transformation vision and communicates by holding one meeting or by sending out a single communication. They are then startled to find only a few people understand the new approach.

Scenario 2: The head of the organization makes several speeches to employees, but most people still don’t get it.

Scenario 3: The organization invests in newsletters and speeches, but some very visible senior executives continue behaving in ways that are not aligned with the vision — they’re not walking the talk. This increases cynicism and decreases trust in communication.

Transformation isn’t going to solidify unless hundreds or thousands of people are willing to help, often to the point of making short-term sacrifices. Even if they’re unhappy with the status quo, employees will not make sacrifices unless they believe that useful change is possible. Without consistent, credible communication sustained throughout the transformation process, the hearts and minds of the troops will never be captured.

Incorporating transformation messages into hour-by-hour activities

  • In a routine discussion about a business problem, talk about how proposed solutions fit/don’t fit into the bigger picture.
  • In a performance appraisal, talk about how an employee’s behavior helps or undermines the vision.
  • In a review of a division’s quarterly performance, talk beyond the numbers and address how the division’s leaders are contributing to the transformation.

Using all existing communication channels to broadcast the vision

  • Turn boring, unread company newsletters into lively articles about the vision.
  • Take ritualistic, tedious quarterly management meetings and turn them into exciting discussions of the transformation.
  • Throw out generic management education and replace it with courses that focus on business problems and the new vision.
  • Walk the talk through conscious efforts to be a living symbol of the change. Reflect on communications as reminders of desired behavior, and solicit feedback from peers and subordinates.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top