Pragmatic communication and implementation tips on change

Photo at blog from Hans van Nes - 02/10/2010 - 20:12

I was reading a nice book called “Communicatie en Implementatie”, co-authored by my friend Lambert Pater (ISBN 9789047301479). If you understand Dutch you should read it because it gives you 50 pragmatic tips on how to implement change. Although you probably have heard most of the tips in other formats or context, it is a nice “wiki” for any manager involved with change.

Normally I find book on change and change management quite boring. A lot of theory derived from a few, of course successful, change projects and that’s it. One size fits all.

This book takes another approach. The 50 tips are the central placeholder for a bit of background, a bit of training material and practical checklist. But also with a lot of real life stories from many managers, also about the things that went terribly wrong, to emphasize the importance of the topic.

An example of a Tip to give you a flavor:

You remember stories ten times better

Managers love cloaked and ambiguous language: “We will transform ourselves to a virtual organization”. Does this mean a massive re-org and layoffs? Or does it just simply mean that we will camp out at the customer more often?

Why not use a story instead. People remember it better and it leaves room for personal emotions.

In this example something like: “I was sitting in the lobby at a customer. I had to wait a bit and talked with the secretary who told me that it was quite a time ago she had seen somebody from our company. Did we still deliver to them? She ask, adding immediately her assumption that this probably also was taken over by Xyz who were all over the place nowadays. Although we actually do still deliver to them, this was a wakeup call for me that we can’t take for granted that customer remain customers if we don’t see them in their own territory on a frequent base. I asked her what in her opinion we should do better. She thought a moment about it and said: “See this notepad? It’s from Abc. Although it is not our biggest supplier they visit or call us regularly and always ask if they can do something for me. When asked by my colleagues to get something not being part our standard stock, I mostly call them….” So we will change ourselves in spending 50% on customers facing activities.”

Successful stories build upon 4 elements:

- It contains a call for action
- It should bind the audience
- It should contain surprise or magic
- It should radiate confidence and authority

I find myself often browsing through this book. Maybe my “story” will trigger you to buy and read it too. Or at least you will think twice before saying that “We will engage in a process of continuous improvement to grow shareholder value and at the same time protect the interests of our customer community”.

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