Managing confidential change efforts is a topic that can be very uncomfortable. These types of changes are rarely seen as crowd-pleasers or opportunities for buy-in. But, given both the climate of our economy, and recognizing the need to optimize our resources effectively, there are ways that we can provide some guidance and take good care of our people along the way, even amidst these changes.
Human beings can get used to virtually anything, given plenty of time and no choice in the matter whatsoever.
— Tom Holt
Change rarely happens in perfect scenarios. What happens when the change is confidential and we can’t share anything until it’s final?
This kind of change happens all the time. In situations such as mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, layoffs and restructuring, leaders are often restricted from sharing what’s coming. We’re especially crippled by the nature of the change when human capital changes are part of the deal. In these cases, we don’t get the opportunity to test communication, to run a pilot program, or pressure test our approach. We get one shot at getting it right.
So what does that mean for change leaders? It means we have to focus on the outcomes that count and rewrite the rules of engagement. Success looks different, but it can still be accomplished and celebrated. Many times, when human capital change is at play, leaders assume there is nothing that can be shared; they feel they must remain completely silent about the upcoming change.
This is one of the biggest mistakes we see organizations make in these scenarios. Stonewalling communication and avoiding any updates makes it increasingly difficult to rollout a successful change program. In reality, it is possible to build trust and enable your teams, even when you can’t share what’s coming.
It’s scary to think about personnel layoffs, team restructuring, or organizational change. The thought of successful confidential change may seem too good to be true. But when you are able to re-set your expectations, and prioritize trust and enablement, you set your team up for success. Rather than being discouraged by what you can’t share, or stalling for buy-in, look for understanding, engagement, preparedness and risk mitigation.
Our recent webinar, “How to Affect Change When You Can’t Share What’s Coming,” addresses three measures of success to leverage on confidential projects where we can't share what's coming, including an activation toolkit to help guide you through change efforts. The webinar provides in-depth guidance and examples of how to:
- Develop meaningful communication
- Build trust & mitigate disruption
- Enable leaders for change
Check out our webinar recap page to watch the webinar recording and download the change activation toolkit to help prep your organization for successful change.
People can smell change coming; don’t pretend it’s secret or sacred. The longer we, as leaders, wait to rein in control of the change, the more the change takes on a life of its own. After all, change management is, in theory, the art of expanding awareness, visibility, encouraging trust, and ultimately returning this feeling of control; even if it’s as simple as managing expectations.