Well-Prepared Traveler

How To Successfully Implement Change The Human Way (part 3): Practice SMART Communication


“…as psychological researchers discover more about how the human brain works, we’re gaining insights into exactly how to crank up the enjoyment factor…” – Laura Vanderkam, Fast Company.

THE SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN WAY TO HAVE THE BEST VACATION EVER (IN 9 SIMPLE STEPS)” shows you how Planning (step 1) and Doing New Things (step 3) can increase the enjoyment of your precious time off (e.g. be a photo journalist on assignment).

In the same way, a few key steps can help you boost the fun factor of your Change Initiative.

In part 1 you learned HOW & WHY to create the vision to engage others (step 1).

Part 2 showed you HOW & WHY to engage them from the start (step 2).

In the final part of my 3-part actionable guide to Successfully Implement Change the Human Way, you will learn step 3.



If your vision for change is not clearly communicated from the very beginning or if critical questions go unaddressed, people will start to fill in the gaps.

“What happens if…? But doesn’t that clash with…? Ohhhh, here we go again…”

Doubts and skepticism can creep in; rumors will begin to circulate.

Does this scenario look familiar?

– Change announced, workforce uninvolved at start.

– Questions unanswered, passive workforce.

– Momentum dies, implementation fails.

For every team workshop I’ve facilitated or individual I’ve coached, change has been all around us – new “Big Idea” initiative from top management, organizational restructuring, new software program to learn, etc.

When I’ve asked questions to get more information about the changes, I’ve been met with raised eyebrows, big laughs and lots of question marks.

“Why has the board decided to reorganize your department…again?”, “Why has the decision been taken to throw out ABC software and go with XYZ?” – a few of my questions.

“Good question!”, “I have NO idea…” – a few of the responses.

Time and time again I’ve seen organizations announce big changes only to create a myriad of questions and concerns in the workforce.

However, if questions go unanswered and concerns unchecked, the focus naturally shifts from future opportunities to unknown risks – fear of lost jobs, doubt due to unrealistic scope or timeline, skepticism because they’ve heard it all before, etc.

”You just gotta ride it out…” – a common strategy I’ve seen to simply wait until the current enthusiasm passes…until the next Change Initiative.

The only thing I can figure out is that management wants to motivate the workforce in some way. But from my perspective it functions a lot more like a threat than a motivational tool.

Whatever the reasons, withholding information is never a good idea – it communicates a lack of trust in the workforce.

Incomplete information or messages that leave big question marks will cause people to make assumptions and even worse.

The truth is that employees want to hear the truth, even if hard (reminder – transparency is critical for employee satisfaction).

Internal Communications is usually brought in to whip up some fancy brochures and catchy slogans, all of which make no positive difference to the workforce (sometimes the opposite, in fact).

Using internal resources to spread the message is great. But senior leadership should be in the driver’s seat.

This means alignment of the change leaders on WHAT, HOW & WHEN you communicate.


STEP 3: Practice SMART Communication.

These 5 BIG letters will help you get your communication strategy right.

S for…

Think ahead about how the workforce will react to changes and developments. And when questions or concerns arise, address them swiftly.

Use it as a chance to reinforce your key messages and highlight the opportunities of the coming Change.

M for…

Mindfully consider how your workforce will react to different messages and different forms of communication –

Is a town hall meeting a good way to announce the Change Initiative so that people can ask questions and hear the key messages from the change leaders themselves?

Does it make sense for team leads to hold regular meetings with their teams to address new challenges or concerns?

A for…

Be real. Communicate authentically with your workforce like you would with an equal partner. If you tell them the truth, even when hard, they will respect you.

Focusing only on the good and leaving out the bad is not a good strategy. People will catch on quickly and trust will be lost.

What’s working? What’s not? What’s the real status of the change? What are the current roadblocks?

R for…

Getting the frequency right is challenging – too much, too often risks information overload. This can result in people losing interest.

Too little, too late and momentum is lost, rumors can fly.

Therefore, communicate regularly to help people keep track of where you are in the process and tell them why it’s important to keep moving forward.

T for…

The more transparent you are with your workforce the more they will trust you and the leaders in charge.

If you want them to participate in the implementation, they have to trust you. Nothing builds trust better than communicating transparently.

Therefore, your communication strategy should be open and transparent from the start.


TIP 1: Be consistent. Make sure every communication reinforces the key messages that have been in place from the beginning (if you start changing the messages without explaining why, they will notice it).

TIP 2: See problems or setbacks as an opportunity to adapt your implementation plan and reinforce your key messages.



The effectiveness of all communication during the Change Initiative needs to be evaluated – this information allows you to make adjustments as needed.

Most important is that you pay attention to how they are feeling, what they’re saying (e.g. are they satisfied with their level of participation?).

Consistent communication is critical for successful, sustainable implementation; the frequency and intensity is something you will need to adjust as you move forward.

Whenever possible, work with your partners to create solutions to roadblocks along the way.

Created with the human touch, these are the trusting partnerships that will enable you to successfully implement change in your team, group or organization.

Help your team and organization move from the above red scenario to this blue one:

+ Change announced, workforce involved from start.

+ Questions answered, pro-active workforce.

+ Momentum maintained, implementation succeeds.

For hands-on support implementing these ideas and strategies, contact me.


If you liked the message in this post, please share it with your network. And YOUR ideas & strategies with me below. Thanks!

  • Thanks for your comment, Marcela. Yes, treat others with respect – should be the Golden Rule in our work! BR, Tim

  • Hi Tim, great post, very practical and I totally recognize real life. I find all your tips and steps useful. Basically – People are not stupid and they want to be treated with respect. Everyone Needs to understand WHY the Change is Happening, each of us will probably Need a different tailored message, depending on who we are and what we do, how we can relate to it.

    It is such a Basic no-brainer and yet, very rarely this gets to be done the right way.