Honest Communication and the Architecture of Change

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I think Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, is spot on in her thoughts about authentic communication in the workplace.  It is especially important when we add the pressure of time lines and budget commitments inherent in major change initiatives.

No matter how well structured and planned, once a change initiative begins there are obstacles and challenges that require redesigning the plan or creating work-around solutions to help meet broader project objectives.  Some problems are technical problems that can be solved by applying expertise.  Others require solutions that are more adaptive and focused on navigating human emotions and behavior.  Most problems are a combination of both and require a set of capabilities that allow change leaders to navigate the ambiguity and create flexible solutions to keep initiatives on track.

One of the key tools of the Architecture of Change is honest communication.  Effective change leaders learn they must be aware of the way things really are and help stakeholders see and manage that reality.  They also clear away the “shoulds” and eliminate a project culture of denial, blame, and judgment.   Honesty is not about judgment, it is about objective observation.  Honest communication helps project teams see the facts that are needed to plan and manage effectively.  Any truth can be managed.  It is the surprises that result from hiding truth that create delays, cost overruns, and ineffective solutions.  Honest communication helps change initiatives get to the truth faster, so project teams can adapt solutions to meet the contextual demands.

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