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10 Tips for Effective Change Management Communication

I just received my invitation to David Grossman’s webinar Ultimate Communicator’s Checklist: The 7  Habits Every Communicator Must Master on 6/25 and was excited to register here, because communication is so relevant to successful change management. Coaching one of our client change teams recently, I was reminded of the challenges we often face deciding what needs to be communicated and how often communications need to be shared. When consultants are presented with these questions, we have the tendency to give that age-old consultant response, “It depends.”  That is a valid response to some extent but hardly sufficient or useful. A better response is to first ask a few questions:

  • What is the change?
  • How difficult or complex is the change?
  • Who is impacted by the change?
  • How are they impacted?
  • Why is the change necessary?
  • How do you anticipate those impacted by the change will react?


Answering these questions helps determine and/or predict the impact, scope, complexity and acceptance of the change by providing a gauge or guideline for communications planning. The more challenging the change, in my experience, the more resistant Targets — individuals impacted by the change — are and even more communications are required to successfully shift these Targets from their initial position of resistance to a position of adoption and acceptance. I have also learned the hard way that until the Target is prepared by the Sponsor to hear the message, communications are often disregarded, ignored, undervalued and sometimes simply unwanted.

I have also learned the hard way that until the Target is prepared by the Sponsor to hear the message, communications are often disregarded, ignored, undervalued and sometimes simply unwanted.

Download the free eBook Target’s Guide to Change Management today.

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My client coaching reminded me that, as change practitioners, we sometimes forget how critical communication is to helping individuals and organizations manage change. We know Targets need the information we have to share to make an informed decision as to whether they will make the change or not.  The value is so obvious to us. Why don’t they see it the same way?  Why don’t Targets hear our messages, acknowledge the information and ask for more if they don’t understand?  Could it be that we aren’t leveraging good change management communication discipline? The following ten tips can help.

10 Tips for Effective Change Management Communication:

  1. Address both information Needs AND Wants.
  2. Communicate the Why before the What and How.
  3. Remember that one communication NEVER fits all audiences.
  4. Appeal to the multiple communication and change styles.
  5. Remind Sponsors that communication happens when the listener “hears”, not when we “speak”.
  6. Understand that listeners, not communicators, decide when communications are sufficient and effective.
  7. Use your analysis of Target resistance to define messages and frequency of communications.
  8. Be careful – communications can both mitigate and create resistance.
  9. Utilize senior leaders and direct supervisors for the most effective messages.
  10. Absent effective communications, Targets “fill in the gaps” with their perceptions and personal renditions of the change.


Every change effort relies on effective communications to share the information Targets need to know and answer the questions related to what they want to know. Regardless of the size, scope, complexity or timing of the change, your communication strategy and plan should incorporate, but not be limited to also sharing these 25 Required Change Communications messages…

Download 25 Required Change Communications here.



This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. These are good lists. We could consider to add ‘ how can we make them part of the change process?’, based on the thinking that we all accept changes that we can understand and influence. But, we hate changes that are happening over our heads. We easily look through orchestrated, fragemented cascading of information from those who are driving the change.

  2. Eiric – I couldn’t agree with you more. Engaging Targets in the change process is the first giant step toward mitigating existing resistance and possibly preventing future resistance. However, an important caveat to involving Targets is to be very clear what is negotiable and what is not. Even when they are partners in the change process, Targets get very frustrated and even angry when they are mislead to believe they can influence the change when they cannot.

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