People practice and believe what is proven to be true and effective. This is why best practices are often handed down from one generation to another, paving the way to the establishment of “tradition”. The same goes for organizations that have survived decades in the business.
However, with the emergence of the global market and a virtual market place, systems and traditions are starting to be questioned. Organizations are slowly learning to adjust and turn the surge of changes into their advantage (Bharijoo, 2005). After all, adaptation is the key to survival.
Kurt Lewin (1947) broke down the process of change into three stages, namely: unfreezing, changing, and refreezing. In 2013, Zareen Husain benchmarked on Lewin’s Model of Change and attached the role of communication in each of the model’s stages.
Explained below are Husain’s whats and hows of communication in the process of organizational change:
Unfreezing entails preparing your organization for the change you want to create. This involves creating a situation of a “controlled crisis”. For people to be alarmed and to take action, you must point out what needs improvement—even if it most frequently means deviating from the status quo.
What to communicate: Explain the need for change and clearly illustrate the gap between what is desired and what is happening in reality.
How to communicate: The most common practice of information dissemination is from top to bottom in the form of written announcements. However, it will help the stakeholders to understand better if you personally relate the message through face to face conversations.
Once the members of your organization are already at their feet, it is now time to have them apply the desired changes. People will be up and about and ready to find new ways of doing things. However, because the decision making is usually confined within the top management, you can expect lower ranked employees (who are usually affected the most) to feel lost and confused. This makes room for rumor, confusion, and uncertainty.
What to communicate: Inform your stakeholders of the specific changes that will be made, how it will affect their work, and to what extent.
How to communicate: Make sure that you guide your stakeholders throughout the changing process. Doing so will minimize uncertainty, tension, and resistance to change.
Once the desired change is implemented, the stakeholders now adjust, settle down, and re-stabilize.
What to communicate: In this stage, make sure to communicate all the positive effects of the changes made, its sustainability, and long-term beneficial effects.
How to communicate: Answer and entertain questions involving the new set of rules and regulations. To ensure control over the new setup, hand over the challenge of communicating from the top management to the supervisors.
There is no question when it comes to the role of communication in change management. However, Husain reminds us that the focus of communication in change management should not solely lie in the dissemination of correct information but in the reduction of confusion and irrelevant information as well. In addition, to secure long term support on organizational change, it is important to note that communication must be “continuous, concrete, and multidirectional,” which means everyone should be involved in the process.