Donald Says Location. Sandy Says Communication.


“When you are up to your neck in alligators, it is hard to remember that your primary goal is to drain the swamp.”

 I don’t know who to attribute this quote to, but I’ll guess it is from a wise person from the southern United  States 🙂

Wow. Who hasn’t felt like this lately or while going through any organizational change? When you, your team, your peers, and your company’s senior executives are working overtime to re-assess risk, re-scope expenditures, prepare for acquisitions, understand government actions, and anticipate market changes, it is hard to remember you are there to serve your customers.


Communicate Effectively During Organizational Change


Is there a relationship between frequency of contact and client satisfaction? According to the Corporate Executive Board, the answer is a resounding yes.

During an organizational change, when relationship boundaries are shifting, effective communications to customers and employees matters more than ever. If employees are not clear on the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the change, how can they effectively communicate with customers? Often, when I work with clients who’ve asked for my assistance on an organizational change effort that has failed, what I uncover is that employees are distracted and poorly equipped to communicate. They have obsolete scripts, mixed messages, and uncertainty regarding their own careers and finances.




What can you do to help your stakeholders deal with organizational change effectively?

Prepare and support managers.

Employees will be looking to their managers for cues on how to interpret the change. Develop FAQs, talking points, host small group discussions and/or on-line discussions just for managers. Ask them what they need to perform their roles effectively.


Equip all employees emotionally.


Explain the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the organizational change. Focus on the ‘why’…that is really what most people care about. Help employees address uncertainty and negative emotions that may arise within themselves and their customers. Prepare them to exude confidence and competence when interacting with customers. Remind employees to focus on what they can control and to seek assistance or guidance otherwise.



Equip customer-facing employees to handle customers effectively.



Keep client communications materials current and readily available. Remind employees of the importance of frequent client contact, and to stay focused on servicing clients. Share and reward successful ideas and methods.



Ensure consistency across stakeholders.



Inconsistent messages to customers, employees, investors, or regulators can and will surface, causing undue pain. Establish a Communications Coalition across the company (with all geographies and business units) to ensure coherence of messages.



Foster two-way communication.



Listening is an important part of customer communications (any communications, really). The distance between inbound teams (e.g., sales, customer support) and outbound teams (e.g., corporate communications, marketing) makes it difficult to have “closed loop communications.” Establish tighter collaboration between these teams. For example, look for new shortcuts you can create between customer-facing staff and communications executives.


These are just five of many communications tactics to consider when building your organizational change strategy. One of the opportunities organizational change presents is the ability to play with the elasticity of relationship boundaries. Don’t be afraid to test some boundaries in the name of change. And remember, as the venerable former coach of the Chicago Bears football team, Mike Ditka, said: “Success isn’t permanent, and failure isn’t fatal.” Now go test a boundary!


Adapted from the Corporate Executive Board, my former employer, 2008.


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Sandra Schwan

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