Communicating change with the team

The line manager is the most effective communicator to his or her own team – as manager and leader, the line manager is the person who will be present over time during a change process.

Communicating clearly and simply, without jargon, will be highly valued by the team.

If you can answer, with your team, the five questions below, the team will be well placed to understand what is going on – where this change has come from, what it means for the team, and what the desired benefits are.

The line manager may need to prepare…for example, get some of the ‘answers’ and key facts from other colleagues in the organisation. The manager can also use this framework to explore the team members’ reactions– for example in terms of the range of personal reactions – in an open way, and in a framework that sums up all the important points.

Five questions to support managing change

Use these questions with your team to explore, explain, confirm and check understanding. These questions can be used to share and map reactions to change, or to take stock at milestones of a large and complex change.

1. Where have we come from? Think broadly and with colleagues beyond the team or the organisation. Have we ‘done all this before’; have we kept or lost the institutional memory and learning.

2. Where are we now? Why is this change being addressed now; what is the prompt? Is it external or internal to the organisation; a ‘nice to do’ or a ‘must do’?. Is it only us, or all our sector?

3. Where are we going? What will success look like? What does it mean for me / ‘What is in it for me’?

4. How are we going to get there? Identify the stakeholders, roles, activities, resources, timescales, dependencies, communication needs and plans, milestones. What surprises may crop up, and how will we address them?

5. How will we know when we get there? ‘How will we measure success?’ Identifying the answer to this question puts the focus back onto understanding the desired impact and benefits of change.

Organisation and team language, metaphors and images for change

As you plan to support change as a line manager, it is useful to know the organisational context of how any change is being presented and perceived.

What is your organisation’s or team’s cultural approach to change – is it private or public, based on a view of the organisation as a machine or as a living thing, ‘topdown’ or ‘bottom-up’, based on ‘control’ or on ‘emergence’? What shared language and imagery does your organisation use to talk about change?

What are the terms or metaphors for change in your organisation or team? For example, ‘Success’; ‘Achieve Impact’; ‘Survival’; ‘It’s going to be tough’.

As well as using language and metaphors to explore meaning in your organisation and team, you can also develop and select visual images to use for visioning change, or for sharing understanding of a process. What value do they add in global and multilingual organisations?

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