Why explaining matters for change management

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I was told once in an interview that I would have to help to move things forward on various projects and the difficulty would be to get people to move and do their part. Confident that I could do it, I was asked how I intended to achieve this. My answer was simple: if we explain what we need to do and why, people will be willing to do their part and adhere. This probably sounded too simple, perhaps even silly.

Many fail to make the necessary distinction between communication and explanation. I have observed that explaining is often underrated; in fact, it can take one a long way in achieving what one hopes to achieve.

Understanding the “why” and the “how” allows us to connect with each other. Most people have the good will to help. They may have a lot of work, but what will distinguish you from all the others will be your taking the time to explain.

When it comes to change, the same principle applies. Change is everywhere and is part of our lives, but the need to change is not naturally appreciated by most people. Change takes us out of our comfort zones and the time it takes to adapt depends on our ability to accept and embrace it.

Organisations, units or persons wanting to implement change tend to neglect this truth/reality. They communicate on the change but underestimate the necessity of explaining things proactively. What some prejudicially call “hand holding” would be the most effective strategy to bring about change. When change is announced, you take note of it. Then, when you actually have to deal with the change, it can be daunting, annoying, discouraging. Having the necessary support at that time is crucial.

This is in line with what the Australian motivational speaker, Sebastian Terry, has testified. When he decided to live by his values and to create a bucket list of 100 things he wanted to do before he died, after some time, many people started to take serious note of his journey. They were all willing to support him in achieving his goals. He said that when he asked, for example, a woman why she was willing to help him, she had answered: “passion inspires passion”. Sebastian had explained what he was looking to achieve and why. People were willing to help.

It sounds simple but it is true.

What is there to explain?

  • What is the “why” behind the change, what will be achieved generally and, more specifically, what problems you are trying to solve;

Only by explaining will you be able to make yourself properly understood, and give the opportunity to ask questions for clarification. Organisations tend to think that an email communication or holding a meeting to announce a change will suffice. It wouldn’t be.

Key take-away:

If you wish to be successful in bringing about change in your organisation, ensure you have taken the time to explain things thoroughly to get the buy-in you are looking for.

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