5 communication strategies that make leading change work in turbulent times
5 communication strategies that make leading change work in turbulent times
Managing change was predicted to be the number one
issue leaders would face
The pace of change gets faster each year and the challenge to stay ahead of the game becomes more daunting, more challenging, and more necessary.
Change is happening everywhere we look. Markets, technology, competitors, and especially the way
we work are radically different today than they were just weeks ago.
When change initiatives go well, they improve innovation, creativity, success, productivity, engagement, and employee retention. When they don’t, organizations fail to meet their goals and, as a result, time, energy, resources, and morale can all be lost.
If the need to lead change effectively is critical to organizational success, why aren’t we getting better at it?
Ineffective communication, poor leadership, and lack of training and resources are key reasons change efforts fail. But research shows that people go through predictable stages of concern during times of change. And the better that leaders understand how to diagnose and address these concerns and communicate effectively about them, the better they are at keeping the change process on track.
Powerful and sustained change requires constant communication, not only throughout the rollout but after the major elements of the plan are in place. The more kinds of communication employed, the more effective they are.
DeAnne Aguirre
Research shows that in times of change, people go through predictable stages of concern
  1. Innformation Concerns
  2. Personal Concerns
  3. Implementation Concerns
  4. Impact Concerns
  5. Refinement Concerns
Addressing these stages can remove roadblocks to the change process.
A key reason that change efforts fail is not simply a lack of communication but a lack of focusing communication on the five stages of concerns people have about the change process.
The First Stage of Concern — Information Concerns
People want specifics about the change process. They want to have the chance to ask questions about the gap between what is and what could be. They want honest and direct answers. And they don’t want to be sold on the proposed change. They need to understand what is being proposed before they can know whether the change is bad or good.

Key questions at this stage include:

  • What is the change?
  • What’s wrong with the way things are now?
  • What do we hope to accomplish?
  • Why now?
  • What opportunity willI have to raise questions and voice my concerns?
  • How do people I respect feel about this change?
The Second Stage of Concern — Personal Concerns
Personal Concerns, are often the most ignored stage and the primary reason so many change initiatives fail. At this stage, people want to know how the change initiative will benefit them or what they will lose.

Specifically, people want to know:

  • How will the change impact me personally?
  • Will I win or lose?
  • Will I be able to learn how to do this?
  • How do I find the time?
  • How are my relationships going to be impacted?
The Third Stage of Concern — Implementation Concerns
Implementation Concerns, include system alignment, best practices, and the daily mechanics of making the change happen. In this stage, people ask themselves, “What do I do first? Second? Third? How do I manage all the details?”

Additional concerns include:

  • How are we going to do this?
  • How will the people being asked to change be involved in planning for it?
  • How realistic is the change plan?
  • How could this change get derailed?
  • Is there a Plan B?
  • Who can help me?
The Fourth Stage of Concern — Impact Concerns
At this stage, people are interested in learning whether the change is paying off. If leaders have done a good job of addressing the first three stages of concern, this is the point in the process where people will sell themselves on the benefits of the change.

Impact Concerns focuses on issues such as:

  • Is the change working for me, my team, our organization, and our customers?
  • Is the change effort worth it?
  • Has anyone figured this out?
  • What can we learn from their success?
  • How do we get everyone who is still undecided on board?
  • How are we dealing with resistance?
The Fifth Stage of Concern — Refinement Concerns
Refinement Concerns focus on making continual improvements. At this stage, the change is well on its way and employees are focused on innovation. Employees may be wondering whether alternative approaches might work better. They may want to play a role in modifying the approach to the change process to leverage lessons of the past. The leader’s role is to encourage this refinement, support further innovation, and invite others to challenge the status quo.

At this stage, people need to know:

  • How can we do this better or faster?
  • What have we learned that we can leverage?
  • Do you trust us to lead this change going forward?
Mastering the art of leading change doesn’t need to be mysterious or complicated. Acknowledging that people go through predictable and sequential stages of concern — which can be anticipated and addressed—can help your organization accelerate change.
By training leaders on how to address the stages of concern and respond with strategies to increase involvement and influence at each stage of the change process—and build the capacity for future change — organizations can dramatically increase the probability of successfully initiating, implementing, and sustaining change.