Circle of Fellows #26: Communicating Change

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You have probably heard the statistic before: Research from McKinsey & Company found that only 30% of executives agreed that their change programs were completely or mostly successful. Corporate culture expert John Kotter estimates “more than 70% of needed change either fails to be launched, even though some people clearly see the need, fails to be completed even though some people exhaust themselves trying, or finishes over budget, late, and with initial aspirations unmet.”

Kotter later reported, “I have watched more than 100 companies…make fundamental changes in how business is conducted. A few of these corporate change efforts have been very successful. A few have been utter failures. Most fall somewhere in between, with a distinct tilt toward the lower end of the scale.”

While the 70% figure has its share of detractors, the simple fact is that a lot of companies undertake change and either achieve limited success or none at all.

Among the reasons change fails are several where communications can play a large role. A gap between what employees know and what they do, culture working against change (because, as Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”), hidden conflicts, and employee resistance are among the factors that can be addressed by effective communication in order to improve the odds of successful change.

October’s Circle of Fellows panel — an hour-long conversation among a group of IABC Fellows — explored the role of communications in change, how to prepare a workforce for change, how communicators can support leaders and employees undergoing the change process, and the changing nature of change itself in the modern workplace.

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About the panel

Priya Bates is a senior communication executive who provides strategic internal communication counsel in order to ensure leaders, managers, and employees understand the strategy, believe in the vision, act in accordance to the values, and contribute to business results. She is president of Inner Strength Communications in Toronto, and previously served as senior director of Internal Communications at Loblaw Companies Limited.

James E. Lukaszewski, America’s Crisis Guru ®, is a bestselling author, national speaker, and trusted strategic advisor to FPO and NPO business operators and leaders during crises, disasters, reputation attacks, contentiousness and when the boss’s future is at stake. Corporate Legal Times listed him as “one of 22 crisis counselors to have in your speed dial when all hell breaks loose.” For more than 30 years, he has confidentially guided hundreds of company leaders thru tough, touchy, sensitive situations. Lukaszewski’s strategies inspire constructive, ethical problem resolving management behavior. A powerful and inspirational speaker, he teaches executives and managers the lessons he has learned. A prolific author, he is quoted and interviewed often as one of the most recognizable leaders in his profession. Lukaszewski is on the web at

Annette Martell, ABC, MC, Fellow, is a change & communication strategist. Annette focuses on helping executive decision-makers solve organizational & communication problems while building resilient & resourceful teams. When working with clients, Annette draws on her years in senior management, consulting & communication leadership roles from such sectors as financial services, retail, mining & associations. Annette is an IABC Fellow, IABC Master Communicator, former IABC world chair, certified in change management & an alumnus of Cornell’s Change Leadership program.

Jim Shaffer is a business advisor, leadership coach, author, and speaker. As leader of the Jim Shaffer Group, he helps organizations accelerate results through superior strategy execution. The Jim Shaffer Group creates hard business results by translating the business strategy to the people who need to implement it, aligning systems, processes, and culture to make the gains sustainable. Jim was an architect and leading practitioner of Towers Perrin’s (now Towers Willis Watson) change management consulting practice. He designed and produced the IABC Academy Course, “Managing Change Communication to Drive Results and Value.” Some of his change management clients have included: Abbott, ConAgra Foods, FedEx, IBM, ITT, Mayo Clinic, Medtronic, Owens Corning, Pfizer, Toyota.

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