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Internal Communication - Why Explain Why?

Leadership
Internal Communication
Managing Expectations
Product
Sharing the vision

9 July, 2018

Bashir Eghbali talks about how to communicate with engineers about big initiatives and the importance of explaining why the changes are being made.

Problem

My company, Womply, decided on rolling out an all-star culture. Before making the changes, our founder talked about this idea at an all-hands meeting for about 10 minutes. However, because he talked about it so quickly, people didn't understand the reasoning for why we were making this change. As a result, people started filling in the blanks with their own assumptions, and not all of these assumptions were positive.

Actions taken

I drafted a message for my team to highlight why we were making the changes and to answer some of the questions and rumors I had heard. I then tied the changes to other companies that had gone through this process to demonstrate that it wasn't a unique process. Finally, the message highlighted the fact that this would be a group process and asked for their ideas about what it meant to them so we could improve it together. I was careful to be very explicit about what the cultural initiative actually meant for the team and the company and also explained what it did not mean. This message got a lot of engagement and the team was very positive about it.

Lessons learned

When communicating changes to your team or company, spend 80 percent of your time talking about why you are making changes, what led up to those decisions, and the inputs used to make the decisions. Give the changes you have chosen some external or data-based validation, so people can understand your reasoning and it feels like a grounded decision. Finally, when communicating from the top, it's always best to test your communications on big initiatives with first-line managers first to get their read on how people will react. This will allow you to refine your message and anticipate the questions and issues that might arise so you can address them.


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