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01 October 2015

How the wall in my living room suddenly turned pink due to poor communication

I came home one day to discover that my wife had changed the colour of one of the walls in the living room to an unusual shade of pink. I didn’t get consulted about this before the decision was made, there was now no chance of a compromise and no longer the opportunity to have an input.

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Change can be painful, certainly when communication is not at its best. Communication can not only ensure that a change is accepted, good communication is even an important driver of change. This applies not just to a relationship, but certainly also to the workplace.

Three questions about transparency

What is good communication? Good communication is clear, honest, efficient and relevant. On top of that transparency is also important. Particularly if you are trying to lessen any resistance to a change, it’s important for you to be open about the motives for that change and its consequences, regardless of the target group or the change process. Asking and answering the following three questions will help:

  1. What are we doing?
  2. Why are we doing it?
  3. What does it mean for those concerned?

If you have a clear view of what the change entails and why it’s happening, you can also determine what consequences the change will have for the people affected by it. The chance of success is enhanced when those involved are aware of the reasons behind the changes being implemented. Asking the questions above can never offer a complete guarantee of success, but it does help in making the story clear and understandable. Avoiding any surprises reduces the chances of resistance.

Keep communicating

Naturally this also applies in the domestic domain, think about the change of colour in my living room. What do you do when you get home and discover that the wall is now a different colour: do you accept it, ask for a divorce, or immediately drive to the paint shop to buy a new colour?

There’s a chance that a unilateral decision could cause resentment. In my situation it came down to ‘love it or hate it’. Had I been aware of the decision in advance, I would have felt decisions were being shared, and perhaps I might even have ultimately agreed to the choice of colour. But now the what and the why were lacking, creating an uncomfortable situation. Getting a notification in advance would have been better in this instance, as now the surprise effect is simply too great.

Of course changing the colour of a wall isn’t really that serious, and certainly isn’t a reason to file for divorce. After all, this change didn’t have a major impact, I can therefore forgive this way of communicating, or more like non-communication. For major organisational change, like an IT change, relevant and clear communication is needed. New software adoption doesn’t just mean a new colour on the monitor, but possibly a new way of working.

So be transparent and avoid surprises, to keep things comfortable and workable for everyone in the organisation. Although perhaps a little extra colour in a relationship can’t do any harm, right?

Geert-Jan Blom
Business Consultant Planon Netherlands