Mastering Organizational Change - 50 Common Sense Tips - Part 5

purple-cow1This is the fifth in series of ten posts on 50 common sense tips on mastering organizational change.

These particular points, 21-25, continue the Selling phase in the three-step process I refer to as Planning, Selling, and Engaging. Indeed, selling the message effectively is a key part of any change endeavor, be it a new process, software rollout, or transitional culture change.

So, let’s look at five more tips!

21. Say Something Different – Marketing expert Seth Godin wrote a book called Purple Cow. The idea is that by jolting people awake with an unexpected message or product that stands out (much like a purple cow would), people will be drawn to take notice. Try to find something unique or different to say that people haven’t heard over and over. You may actually find them listening.

22. Say it Often – Communicating a message once may or may not reach people. But if they begin to see the message reinforced in different ways, through frequent tips, internal media, and success stories, it will gradually begin to sink into their psyche. And if they begin to see tangible results from the change, that will reinforce it even more. Repetition over time induces change much like water can eventually wear down a rock.

23. Back it Up – People want to know your message is credible. Try to offer facts, figures, and proven examples that will make what you’re saying indisputable. Practice what Stanford professors and authors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton call evidence-based management, making decisions based on sound evidence. But beware. As Benjamin Disraeli once said, “There are three types of lies. Lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Make sure your “evidence” is applicable to your organization’s situation.

24. Tell a Story – Anyone who has ever moved the masses did so with stories, either real or fictitious. Business organizations are finally beginning to understand that, and storytelling classes are a hot commodity in leadership circles. Whether it’s a sad story of failure, a motivational story of triumph, or a series of little stories from your organization or elsewhere (whether good or bad) to help express a desired behavior, stories can move people much more than rules or instructions. Use stories to spread excitement and drive new behaviors.

Bonus tip! In their popular book Made to Stick, authors Chip and Dan Heath combine a number of these tips, suggesting that the best way to make a message stick is to make it a simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional story (which conveniently spells out SUCCESs).

25. Paint a Picture – Some people are visual—especially executives, who rarely have time to digest a complex message or read through reams of documentation. Find a way to convey your message in visual terms, through graphics, diagrams, charts, or pictures. But, as information presentation guru Edward Tufte often cautions, don’t simplify the message to the point where the meaning you’re trying to convey is weakened or muddy. And don’t make it so fancy or complex that nobody can see the forest through the trees. Effective visuals, he points out in his workshops, show clear causality, have annotations to explain key points, show quantitative data (if applicable), and avoid useless or non-informative clutter. Most of all, they must answer the right question—and lead people to the right answer.


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