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Explain how to utilize the organization’s existing communication systems to bring about change for each of the chosen scenarios.

1. 4.6 Practice 6: Seek to Discuss the Undiscussable In every organization, there are undiscussable issues. An undiscussable issue is a ta- boo subject, something people in an open forum don’t talk about in order to avoid an emotionally charged discussion. These issues are undiscussable because people are fearful of releasing “negative” emotions that could jeopardize working relation- ships. (What some people express colorfully as “naming the elephant in the room.”) Common indispensables are challenging an existing reality, questioning those in power, sharing concerns about an idea that is being sold as “perfect,” or simply agreeing to disagree when perspectives clash.[32] In addition to emotionally charged undiscussables, there are also logical incon- sistencies that need to be addressed by the communication system. Organizational change is complicated and there are often inconsistencies when moving from one organizational state to another. If the communication system does not address these inconsistencies, then the credibility of the entire change initiative is called in- to question.[33] Furthermore, it is much more honest and productive to discuss un- discussables.[34] There are a wide variety of ways to successfully discuss the undiscussables, but it all starts with having an attitude of seeing everyone as being in partnership around the success of the overall system.[35] Therefore, blaming leaders or employ- ees is usually not constructive, but structuring in debate and conflicting viewpoints is. Being defensive is rarely helpful, but being curious is. Avoiding discussions of delicate issues will hold back progress, but playful and humorous treatments of tricky issues can help. Emphasizing individual responsibility to the exclusion of col- lective responsibility clearly leads to an imbalance. Sometimes enabling anonymous discussion of undiscussables using Web-based technologies can shine a light on “the elephant in the room.”[36]

2. Practice 5: Repeat the Message Many Times in Many Forums, but Keep It Fresh It is common for change leaders to announce a new change program and pull out all the stops to communicate it to the rest of the organization in the early part of the change initiative, only to move onto other pressing issues after it has been launched. This is a mistake, and it leads to the change cynicism that pervades many organizations today. Furthermore, organizational changes take time to adopt, often years, and this requires focused attention on the part of the rest of the organization. Consequently, the change message must be repeated many ways in many different contexts using multiple communication channels.[30] However, this does not mean that daily e-mails with the same message need to be sent out to the entire organization. It does mean that creative and different versions of the same message need to be distributed periodically in various channels. For example, the change vis- ion could be communicated to large and small groups in formal and informal ways at the launch of a major change program. Furthermore, forums for listening to the employees’ reactions to the change need to be set up, and sometimes the change initiative needs to be adjusted. Fur- therm ore, progress reports on implementing the change program can be circulated electronically or visually. Paycheck staffers might provide factoids that related to the proposed change. And town hall meetings can be used to discuss the change ini- initiative to those who have complaints to voice, are curious, or both. As Marshall McLuhan noted, “the medium is the message,”[31] so repeated, pervasive, and fresh change messages help to gain the attention, interest, and eventual adoption of an information overloaded workforce.

3. Practice 3: Talk the Walk and Walk the Talk There is nothing more devastating to change initiative and overall change capability than for the senior leaders to espouse the benefits of change and then not act in alignment with those espoused benefits. In other words, when the behavior from prominent people within an organization is inconsistent with the change vision, then all other forms of communication are disregarded.[26] In short, “walking the talk” is an essential part of the communication system within an organization. This process begins with the chief executive of the firm modeling the behavior being sought by the change vision. Next, it requires the top management team to police themselves to act congruently with the change vision. And if there are sponsored change agents by the senior executive team, these individuals clearly need to “walk the talk” as well. Change leaders are in a fish bowl, and they must be as if not more willing than the rest of the organization to change their behaviors. As Mahatma Gandhi stated, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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