The Starburst Effect to Change Communication

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Communicating change is one of the most misunderstood functions of change leadership.

Communication during an organizational change is the connective tissue between the strategy, the people leading the change and those affected by the change. The purpose of the communication is to assist those affected by the change to successfully perform their duties in the changed environment.

There are many facets to this communication:

  • link the change to the strategy of the organization
  • inform
  • teach
  • prepare
  • allay fears
  • respond to resistance
  • call to action
  • the list goes on

A few things to consider:

The Sergeants Carry the Message

As an employee, your direct supervisor is the most trusted communication source. Additionally, they naturally are communicating with our change constituents on a daily basis. Change communication should be primarily delivered by the supervisors that make the organization run. The actions of the change team must empower and equip these local communication experts  for success.

Supply and Localize

The task of the change team is to supply communication information and assist in localizing the information for each constituent group. Global statements about the change are fine but listening and understanding occurs when the information is translated into how the change will affect things locally. For a large, long-term change implementation communication content should be provided to managers and supervisors for delivery to their teams on a regular bi-weekly basis. If you line up these messages they should tell a congruent story over time.

The Communication Plan is a Byproduct

Communication plans in the traditional sense (message, medium, date) are nice to have but are not the place to start. The communication task list is merely the result of a great communication approach.


What medium should be used for change communication – email, in-person, social media, video? The answer is all of them. The core message must be formatted for all the potential channels.

Your change communication should appear as a starburst with multiple tendrils reaching everyone in their own way and in their own language, providing specifics as needed. Like July 4th fireworks the crowd says “wow!” at the big explosion but the beauty is in the various colors and designs that expand and reach down over the entire crowd.

Tail Wagging the Dog

A good communication approach enforces a discipline. Very often, the promise made to communicate causes project activities to be completed. If we have the option of not communicating it’s tempting to put off the work when things get difficult.

The communication approach also provides valuable feedback to the project team and often results in redesign that increases potential for success.

Let’s talk about how you communicate change. Free 30 minute consultation. Email to schedule a time.

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Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On July 28, 2015
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