Saying the same thing differently: a tip for change initiatives

The first major issue some organizations run into is that they create the vision without a full understanding by each of the involved parties as to what details the vision conveys.


As you start any large change initiative one of the first things you do is form a guiding coalition, a leadership team. That group will champion the change. One of the first things that group is then tasked with is to create a vision and mission for the change initiative. Where do we want to go? How will we get there? This vision and mission is then ratified by the group and should then be communicated to the larger organization.

This is where some organizations run into their first major issue. They create the vision without a full understanding by each of the involved parties as to what details the vision conveys. Human resources only hears the part that affects them and misses the operational component or maintenance only hears the changes in their function and ignores the quality aspects. Then the leadership group begins the communication process to the masses and the message is both delivered and received differently by various parts of the organization. An organizational mess can then be created one word at a time.

The suggestion is to take time to practice, as a leadership team, conveying the message to each other. It is expected that everybody will deliver the message slightly different using their stories, filters, and life experiences to add the context to the vision. However, in the end the message received by the organization needs to be the same regardless of the communicator or the communication style. This is harder than it sounds and may even require teaming up of leaders from different parts of the organization to ensure consistent messaging reaches the affected associates. If we do not get this step correct the organizational components can go down different paths that may in the end lead to different locations and inadequate initiative results.

Have fun with this step use role play, single point lessons, and scripting within the leadership team to refine the message and delivery. Work together where needed to generate a cohesive message. In the end this will provide the team with a practiced method to say the same thing differently with in the comforts of their preferred styles and should remove one more barrier from your initiative's success.

What things do you do to refine your communications and messaging around change initiatives?

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is a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional. She specializes in business process management, adult education, strategic planning, organizational change management, leadership, and reliability engineering and has lead improvement initiatives for industries such as pharmaceuticals, metals, petrochemical, paper, and power generation, among others. Shon has been asked to speak at numerous professional conferences on these topics in the US as well as Europe, South America, and the Middle East. Edited by Joy Chang, Digital Project Manager, CFE Media, jchang(at)

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