Effective Communication While Navigating Change

Like in marriage, the level of success of an organization can be tied to the quality of communication that is happening throughout the different levels of employees, stakeholders, and anyone else involved in making the organization operate properly. Unfortunately, communication is overlooked often times, and leaders do not apply the same rigor to communication as they do to financial and operational components. (Barrett, 2002, p. 37) Particularly when organizations are attempting to navigate change in culture. It is difficult for an organization to navigate any sort of change, but without clear communication as to what culture change is and is not the organization is bound to fail in its change endeavor. (Hooijberg, 1993, p. 37)

Change requires people involved at all levels to assist in the process, often requiring short-term sacrifices. (Kotter, 2007) Without effective employee communication, the level of buy-in from employees will not be high enough to compel them to make short-term sacrifices, and change will be impossible to accomplish. (Barrett, 2002, p. 219) If employees understand clearly the need for change, and see the benefits the change will provide, they are more apt to embrace short-term sacrifice for long-term benefits. (Kotter, 1995)

In order to accomplish meaningful change, there must be meaningful communication, which accomplishes two primary objectives:

  1. Informs and educates employees at all levels
  2. Motivates and positions employees to support change strategy (Barrett, 2002, p. 220)

Five best practices of effective communication are:

  1. Educate what change means to employees through clear and consisten messages
  2. Motivate employees to support the organization’s new direction
  3. Encourage higher performance and discretionary effort
  4. Limit misunderstandings and rumors
  5. Align employees behind strategy and performance goals (Barret, 2002, p. 220)

Using effective communication practices will increase the chances for success in organizational change.


Deborah J. Barrett. (2002). Change communication: using strategic employee communication to facilitate major change. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 7(4), 219–231. http://doi.org/10.1108/13563280210449804

Hooijberg, R., & Petrock, F. (1993). On Cultural Change: Using the Competing Values Framework to Help Leaders Execute a Transformational Strategy. Human Resource Management, 32(1), 29–50.

Kotter, J. P., & Mundt, T. (2007). Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail. Harvard Business Review.

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