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As a leader, you understand the need to make adjustments to your organization. Markets evolve, and so must your company. As necessary as change is to an organization, change is often hard for a workforce to accept. Getting buy-in from the organization early is important for changes to be successful.

Successfully messaging change to an organization does not occur on accident; rather, it is the result of a deliberate process using best practices. Organizations that plan ahead, align their leaders, remain consistent, and are transparent have the best chance when messaging tough changes to their teams. Leaders who fail to take these elements into account often struggle with apathy and resistance to the change within their organizations. Here are some of the more common pitfalls you should avoid when messaging change:

Five Common Messaging Mistakes When Making Organizational Changes

Lack of planning – The level of planning that will go into messaging a change should be commensurate with the level of planning that went into the determining the change itself. Big changes that require careful planning also require meticulous planning of how that change will be communicated to the workforce. Don’t leave it to chance that your organization will simply accept the change as a matter of course. When planning, consider which will be the best communication platform to reach your organization (it will likely be a social media platform). Also consider frequency of communication, level of formality and the cultural norms of your workforce. Make sure the tone of the message is just right and that it will actually reach your organization.

No leadership alignment – When a leadership team is not in alignment on how the change will be messaged, you will likely have divergence in messaging techniques and tone between the leaders. If these cases, each leader will likely message the change from their individual point of view, which may or may not meet the messaging needs of the organization at large. When different messages come from different leaders within an organization, word spreads and the organization at large will likely conclude that the leaders are not in alignment on the change itself. This scenario will slow acceptance of the change and can likely distort implementation of the change across the organization. Make sure your leaders are all on the same page when it comes to messaging the change!

Failure to remain consistent – Remaining “on message” is also important. Straying from the key points you are trying to communicate to your organization will muddy the waters and likely produce a lack of focus. Ensuring that the key points being communicated are those that will resonate with your organization and will promote acceptance of the change; straying from those key points introduces less compelling ideas into the change and can reduce buy-in.

Organizational input not obvious – The larger the change, the more necessary it becomes to have incorporated input from the organization at large into the decision on the change. Employees worth their salt who are invested in the company’s success will want to have a say in that company’s direction. Getting their input is critical for buy-in, but also for making a good decision in the first place. When messaging change, make it painfully obvious how their input contributed to the decision. If your organization believes they made a decision to make a major change without any organizational input, the messaging campaign is postured for failure.

Limited transparency – When messaging change, be as transparent as possible. If leadership is disingenuous with its workforce, that fact will spread farther and faster than any messaging campaign. Your messaging needs to reflect reality; if there is alignment between the ground truth and your messaging, you will retain the credibility necessary to make those tough changes. If your messaging does not, it will likely be worse than if you didn’t try to message at all.

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You want the best for your organization; you want them to thrive and succeed in achieving your shared vision. Successfully making the necessary changes is dependent in part on your ability to message that change to your organization. Make sure you avoid the common pitfalls by planning, achieving leadership alignment, being transparent and consistent, and letting the organizational know how their input was used to decide on the change.

Do you need help reviewing a messaging campaign? We would love to help! Contact us at [email protected] for assistance.

Michael Farr, PMP, is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and founder of He is passionate about recognition and enabling professionals to motivate their organizations through recognizing their member’s excellence. When he is not slaying dragons with his kids, he can be found at @fosterxcellence on Twitter, @fosteringexcellence on Facebook, and @fosteringexcellen on Instagram.