16 Ways Change Goes Wrong for Internal Communications

Managing change and, specifically, change communications can feel as vulnerable as surgery, and at the same time, as heavy handed as an upper cut. The amount of changes a company can go through is staggering; whether they are focused on organizational restructuring, technology, HR policies, incentives, new and leaving leadership, brand, M&A, or offered products and services, employees must make sense of them, and then make conscious or unconscious decisions about whether the change helps or hurts them.

When you are managing change so much can go right, but unfortunately much can go wrong too. Here is my list of where things can go wrong:

  1. There is no well-defined, agreed-to vision of where the company is going
  2. There is no single, clearly-defined problem being solved or logical case for the change
  3. Multiple changes feel isolated and not part of a single corporate journey
  4. There is no clearly articulated urgency for change
  5. Employees do not understand how they will be affected by the change and how they can contribute to it
  6. Employees do not see the benefits of the change or the pain from not changing
  7. Leadership is not vocally and emphatically behind the change
  8. Because leaders have been working on the change for a significant amount of time, they forget that employees who just found out about the change will not be in the same emotional place as the leaders are when the change happens
  9. There is no credible and influential champion for the change
  10. The path to change appears arduous and painful
  11. Leadership and employees are not properly educated or trained on change
  12. People managers are not brought in early enough to recruit as agents of change
  13. Not all significant stakeholders have been included in the planning for the change
  14. Employees do not see momentum from quick wins
  15. Employees (particularly Authentic Informal Leaders) are not included in helping other employees embrace the change
  16. Once made, the changes are not embedded into the culture and the “everyday” of the company

I am certain I am missing bad practices and pitfalls, and would love to hear from you about what I should be adding. I list all of these not to freak anyone, including myself out, but as a reminder that change deserves time to be thought through and planned.

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