Cultural Change Communication: Inspiration vs Aspiration

One of the main reasons corporate culture change is not sustained is that most strategies rely on the corporate communications and/or marketing departments to “speak truth into the future,” or to communicate aspirational beliefs that are a little too far ahead of the current reality. While aspiration is necessary, these messages often have the unintended effect of making change even more difficult, because they are not systemically and formally backed up over a sustained period of time with consistent behavior change. They become perceived as un-kept promises, or as a temporary campaign that will pass.

“…An intentional balance of action and messaging.”

When messaging gets too far ahead of performance management systems, informal rewards and celebrations, meeting governance routines, key performance indicators and compensation models, they only serve to communicate that – once again – the “transformation” need only play out a little while longer before business can once again resume to normal. And over time, what could have been a substantial investment in the company’s future ends up as an expensive cost of doing business.

Ultimately a change communications plan must contain an intentional balance of action and messaging. Ideally, actions precede messages, and the communications can serve to shine a bright light on what is already occurring. Communicating real momentum and aspiration at the same time is the ideal way for internal communications to support cultural change work.

Chuck Allen is a VP Realm responsible for employee engagement and change communications. His extensive background in executive coaching and leadership has lead him to conclusions about life and work. “I work with leaders who want to leave less life on the table and build whole lives worth emulating.”

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