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By Tiffany Cheng

With hundreds of days of rollout and millions of budget spent on a transformation program, has your company transformed?

70% of the transformation programs failed to achieve their goals, the number one reason (62%) is poor communication far more than the other reasons – insufficient budget (17%) and lack of time (23%).

Many leaders understand the importance of communication, and they do spend efforts preparing for it with their communication team. As a result of the communication, do you recognize any of these cases below?

  1. Employees knew what was happening, they understood why this was happening, but
    they didn’t believe this was the best solution and the right thing to do?
  2. Or employees knew what was happening, why this was happening, they bought in and
    believed this was the right thing to do, but they didn’t think it was clear what it meant to
    them and what actions they needed to take?
  3. Or employees knew why and what was happening, they agreed it was the right thing to
    do, it was clear what was required from them, but they were not excited about it, nor did
    they feel it was their priority. Therefore, they put it at the bottom of their long to-do list.

As long as people in the organization don’t take actions differently from yesterday and make it happen, the carefully crafted vision, the well-designed roadmap, and the expensive system stay as a nice plan on paper that transforms no one and nothing.

Communication is so critical, then what has gone wrong from the beginning? What are the typical communication mistakes leaders in large organizations make?

1.Put too much focus on the output and too little on the outcome.

When preparing the kickoff communication for a transformation program, I often observe communicators and leaders spend the majority of their time and efforts on the visible, i.e. PowerPoints, email letters, videos, employee meetings, and webinars. It gives a feeling a lot has been done, with a big amount of output.

Little is being spent on preparing the invisible which leads to impact and the outcome – understanding the people, including the recipients and the leaders themselves concerning the subject.

2. Confuse ‘presentation’ with ‘communication’.

Presentation is to give out.
Communication is to get through.

It’s common to see leaders believe that they have been presenting and interacting with various types of stakeholders during their decades of successful careers, hence they assume they can communicate well.

It’s also no surprise that some will just wing it. The leaders who will communicate may have been in discussion and meetings on this topic for months, they feel they know it inside out. Therefore, they have no problem at all talking about it without much preparation.

3. It’s not about what’s said but what’s received.

Most leaders are distant from the front-line employees and are disconnected from the recipients of the communication. Many assume that what motivates them also motivates others.

For example, when implementing a digital transformation program, to the leaders, it’s a no-brainer how much this program will help the organization in data transparency, customer experience, revenue growth, cost savings, and higher efficiency, you name it.

To the employees, what they hear from this exciting program is they need to learn complex software without missing their monthly target, they will spend extra hours entering data into the system after a full day of physical work. To them, it means more work and more hours, less comfort and lower productivity.

Here are two news flashes:

  • What motivated the leaders, doesn’t necessarily motivate others.
  • The success of the communication is not judged by the information you
    give but by what the recipients receive.

Many leaders fail to accept change is personal. It’s even more difficult for leaders to admit they are at the mercy of their employees.

Most leaders believe they are where they are because of their excellence and experience made of a long list of track records. They take more responsibility and pressure than their employees. They have to make decisions that lead the organizations to long-term competitiveness.

So it’s difficult to understand why employees would not trust them or would not do what they have asked.

Regardless you are a leader or a communicator reading this, here are the 3C steps in preparing communication before any output is made.

  1. Connect with yourself:
    – Why are you communicating?
    – What difference would you like to make with your communication?
    – Why do you believe in it yourself?
    – What might you feel uncomfortable talking about?
  2.  Connect with the recipients:
    – What are they already doing about it?
    – What don’t they know yet?
    – What do they want to know?
    – What’s their current feeling about this subject?
    – What might they fear about this change?
  3. Create your ‘know, feel, do’:
    – Know: What’s the message? If people will only remember one sentence from this
    communication, what should it be?
    Remember, the strongest message always starts with what your listener is
    – Feel: Why is this important to them?
    – Do: What should they do about what you are about to communicate?

Before making any communications material, consider planning the 3C steps. Not only will you feel much more prepared but it will help you to connect with the recipients, get their buy-in and positive feeling, and make it easier for them to take their part in the transformation. These are not all steps to kick off a transformation program, but the most missing steps.

Tiffany Cheng is Vice President Communications at Atlas Copco. 15 years of experience in brand, marketing and corporate communication. Strong record of driving corporate reputation, multi-brand communication, executive communication, employee engagement and change management. Effectively build and lead international team and council cross Europe, Asia and Americas, who became an essential contributor to the company’s business result.