It is hard to overstate the importance of communication when unveiling a new initiative or introducing change. The communication of a change is as critical as the strategic thinking behind the change. The communication of a new initiative is often as important as the initiative itself. A leadership team may have an incredible strategy, but if the communication is poor, the strategy will not be embraced. Leaders who communicate well have prepared the new initiative for momentum, while those who communicate poorly doom it to failure or a slow start.
When communicating major change or a new initiative, it is wise to communicate in waves to multiple groups of people. While the nomenclature of the different levels of leadership varies from context to context, there are typically layers of leadership in every context.
- Start with a small group of decision makers, a core of strategic leaders who have a view of and burden for the entire organization/ministry.
- Then communicate to the next level of leaders, often leaders of leaders, and set the pace for the entire organization/ministry.
- Then communicate again to those leaders who serve/work to make the organization/ministry what she is.
- Finally, communicate to the whole organization/ministry.
The communication plan can be illustrated like this:
While the steps can be reduced or expanded, depending on the size of the organization or ministry, communicating in waves produces two big benefits:
1. The message is refined.
By communicating the same message to different groups of people, the communicators are able to refine the message and the delivery of the message. They learn the questions, the struggles, and the points of excitement. They are able to listen to feedback, adjust the message, and communicate again. By the time the communication is delivered to the entire organization, those who communicate the direction have tested the language and the clarity with multiple groups of people.
2. Ownership is expanded.
Initiatives and change efforts often fail because too few people own them. When communication occurs in waves, people are invited to “own the direction.” Leaders often bemoan low amounts “vision buy-in” among the people they lead. If the direction is sound, a lack of “buy-in” is either a credibility or a communication problem. To secure “buy-in” across multiple groups of people, leaders are wise to communicate in waves, to listen, and to ask questions. To hit the bullseye on buy-in, you will need to communicate multiple times to multiple groups. If the communication is strategic, by the time the whole organization hears of the direction, ownership has been expanded.