June 19, 2011
HR587 Managing Organizational Change
Communication and Change
When you listen to people talk about their experience of change, problems of communication are usually at the forefront. In spite of the persistence of this shortcoming, very few serious studies have been made of the subject with a view to identifying effective practices. Nevertheless, the scant information available provides a number of interesting indications. Among them, it shows that in general, top management has an over-simplified idea of what is at stake in communication practices are far removed from management’s usual reflexes. One common ...view middle of the document...
Barbara Turenne is in charge of the Dutch site. Although in agreement with the program, which was periodically discussed in meetings at headquarters, she made a decision to address the implementation problems early on and asked public relations department to put forward a communication plan.
Although somewhat surprised, the PR manager nevertheless submitted the following plan:
• Prepare a poster explaining the new program and place it where it would easily be seen by staff.
• Circulate a newsletter-type leaflet explaining the program and announcing the launching of its implementation.
• Circulate relevant information about the program on the company intranet.
• Make available on the intranet a guide to the new system procedures.
• From time to time, convey information about the program to the staff by e-mail.
• Distribute to each staff member a color leaflet describing the new program.
• Offer the staff training to introduce them to the new program.
Launched in April 2002, the program implementation was to be completed by the end of June of that year. Many problems arose, however, and in September, it had to be acknowledged that the procedures and mechanisms had been applied only to a very limited extent. To everyone’s dismay, it was just about necessary to start again from scratch. It was not until March 2003 that the program became operational and even then with deadlines and costs that were well beyond forecasts, and with a high level of discontent among staff and middle management who generally deplored the lack of communication.
The communication plan, however, had been fully implemented and one can certainly not accuse Barbara of having acted in bad faith. Nevertheless, she fell victim to the usual illusion of believing that the key issue was that of information which led her to lay emphasis on the quality and quantity of information, on its presentation and means of diffusion. Unfortunately, things are just not that simple and some of the real issues at stake lie elsewhere. Contrary to a widespread disbelief, the function of communication is not merely to exchange information, but also, and above all, consists of an attempt to reach a common understanding of life’s experiences. In fact, it involves a continual process of adjustment to establish and maintain a relationship that will evolve in the direction that the participating “players” expect.
Let us take, for instance, the case of a manager making a presentation to his staff on a new process he wants to introduce in the department. On the one hand, the content of the presentation is flawless: clear, detailed, documented. On the other hand, his tone is authoritarian and pontificating. What will the staff first react to when they come out of the session? To the content of his presentation? No! They will first react to his manner of communicating, the content being relegated to the background. Relational and personal...