Posted in practice on March 29, 2016 10:38 am EDT

3 Proven Strategies to Communicate Change to Clients

When something changes on a project, don't put off telling your client. Disclose it to them, wisely.

Communicating change requires us to be complete, fast, truthful and personal.











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TAGS: business, business ethics, change, collaboration, conflict management,


By Cathy Hutchison

Do you feel comfortable communicating change to a client, employee or a group? Or do you put it off or delegate it so that you don’t have to deal with it?

Church designers know that some of the most difficult conversations to engage in are about change.

Whether it is letting a client know their preferred solution will require a substitute because a vendor can’t meet a deadline, to a change in a project manager, to a complete reorganization of a firm, we have the opportunity to be wildly successful in our communication ... or blow it, colossally.

Here are three proven strategies to help you communicate change—especially when it is difficult:

1. Tell it all. Tell it fast. Tell the truth. But tell it with context.

The golden rule in crisis communications is: Tell it all. Tell it fast. Tell the truth. This also applies in communicating change, which is often perceived by people to be “bad news.”

Lanny J Davis—specialist in legal crisis management—shares in his book, “Truth to Tell,” “The rules for dealing with bad news are not about turning bad news into good news.

Facts are facts—and no amount of spinning will alter those facts. We can't change bad facts or avoid all damage. Rather, good spinning aims to minimize the damage—by surrounding bad facts with context, with good facts (if there are any), and, if possible, with a credible, favorable (or less damaging) interpretation of these facts.”

Communicating change requires us to be complete, fast, truthful and personal. And while “spin” often has a negative connotation, surrounding your communication with context—especially when the context has positive elements, can go a long way in helping people receive the change you have to tell them. When hearing about a change people are typically most concerned about how it will impact them personally. The more context you can provide for that impact, the better.

2. Paint the picture of what will be.

I once heard artist Michael Lagocki say, "Compelling dreams beat burning platforms." The idea is that you can tell people the dock they are standing on is burning to get them to jump, or you can paint a picture of something they would leave their dock for, whether it was burning or not.

Focusing your communication on painting the picture of what could be—especially in the face of the dissolution of what was expected—can be a successful way to communicate change.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery—author of “The Little Prince”—said it well, "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

One often overlooked talent of designers is that they are brilliant at using word pictures to communicate what will be. (After all, much of a designer’s communication is focused on describing things that don’t exist yet.) Leveraging that talent to communicate change can be incredibly effective in having a message acted upon.  continued >>