Principles of Effective Communications

Just been reviewing some principles I set up for a corporate change I was facilitating a few years ago (in anticipation of another change in a different context!). I wonder how you respond to these – do you want to add/subtract anything:

• Those most affected will be the first to hear
• Our people will hear things first from their managers
• We will use multiple channels to communicate with our people
• “One hymn, one hymn sheet”
• We will be as quick to give any bad news as the good
• We will be as open as possible
• Face-to-face will be our preferred route for all major communications
• Wherever possible we will avoid jargon, where not possible we will explain it
• Individuals making decisions will have personal accountability for ensuring that those affected by the decision are communicated with effectively
• We will ensure that there is an unfiltered feedback route from our people to the top team
• There will be regular updates on progress
• We recognise the existence of The Grapevine and will try to be sure that it deals in facts not fiction

…on doing things that we do not really want to do…

Every action we take is a matter of choice. There are always dozens, if not hundreds, of other things that we could be doing at the moment.

Everything we do we do to meet some physical or psychological need, so when we end up doing something that we do not really want to be doing right now, it can be helpful to ask “what deeper need is this choice satisfying right now?”

Stop and think about what needs your current actions are satisfying.
What other ways can you satisfy those needs?
What other needs are you subordinating to the ones you are currently satisfying?
How do you feel about that?
What are you going to do about it?

Reflections on Ripples

Market day in Tonneins – busy busy, hot hot, dusty dusty; lots of French (and a few English) locals, the usual North Africans, tourists, migrant workers for the plum/corn/sunflower harvests. The ‘ethnics’ all at one end with their brightly patterned and coloured clothing, their spices; the locals sifting through market stalls filling with fleeces and other autumn and winter clothing, picking the sweetest and juiciest tomatoes, melons, the first of the season’s prunes and the last of the haricots verts, jaunes et noirs.
It was an unprepossessing little fountain near the riverside ; no more than a piece of local rock about 6ft wide with a hole drilled through it and six 12” jets of water spurting from the top, splashing on the rock and into the pool around the rock. Still it offered a coolish resting place and the gentle tinkle of water on water. I sat on the surround for a brief rest, the fountain to my back. Drifting into some heat induced trance, I noticed the occasional wet spot appearing and disappearing in front of me, several metres away from the fountain. It’s not raining, no local child with a water pistol, they can’t be travelling so far from the little fountain – what’s going on?
Sherlock Holmes kicked into action – yes they were coming from the fountain after all, very occasional little splashes hitting the rock at just the right angle to reflect them out across the pool so far away as to seem improbable. The pool, and the ripples of the water splashes, had my attention…
As I watched, entranced by the ripples, I noticed that sometimes the surface was relatively calm, at others turbulent with the interactions of several ripples; sometimes small splashes, at others large blobs of water would disturb a great part of the pool – ever changing and always something happening, my attention gripped by the circles of light and dark as the ripples shed their shadows on the pool bottom. Always light after dark, the shadows fading as the ripple spread out across the pool, intersecting ripples throwing up sun-bright spots and night-dark shades.
I am sat focussing on the ripples and their shadows before my eyes, only just now noticing the contents of the pool – what was in the pool, on the bottom, floating on the surface, coming into eyeshot. Bunches of grapes, last night’s coke can, single leaves and leaves formed into mats solid enough to resist the charms of the water splashes, tiny tiny fish, gnarled rocks and smooth pebbles.
Suddenly a tsunami! Now the local boys had started playing in my pool, all the time they had been creeping up and now they struck coming from outside my viewpoint to change the whole pattern of my little ripples.

Well, I could sit here and philosophise or I could actually go get my pen and paper and record these thoughts – so I do so.

Coming back to the fountain I can see nothing, the glare of the sun on the ripples totally bleaches out everything. But as I walk around the pool to my starting place, the glare reduces as the angle of the sun changes until I can finally see all the original detail. It was worth coming back. I sit, I think, I write, I remember that 30 metres away from this mesmeric little pool, perhaps 3 metres across, flows the mighty Garonne River as wide as a bus and as deep as a house; strong enough to sweep away this little piece of rock without even blinking an eye. I notice again the hundreds of people going about their daily business all around whilst I muse on ripples and their metaphorical relationship to organisational change. I move on – if I stay I get damp or sunburned and neither of those is in your writer’s plan…

If you want to find out how I ‘interpreted this little episode and the lessons I found about change, get in touch – leave a Comment or email me at

The pace of change…

Change is endemic throughout life – and especially in the public sector at the moment.

Coming from a large corporate that has undergone very significant change over the 26 years I worked there – and went from pariah to paragon of excellence – I believe that the predominant public sector change model is fundamentally flawed and inevitably leads to dissatisfaction and mediocrity. 

As a change leadership professional I am often appalled at the slow pace of change in the public sector. Some of it is understandable in that the stakeholder model inevitably requires more consultation etc. However, too many consultees do not seem to understand the difference between consultation and democracy – “I can and will consult you, your views may or may not influence the decision” is very different to “Vote for A or B, I will accept the result of the ballot”. Moreover, I often see a lack of understanding of the need for real involvement, that goes beyond simply holding consultation workshops; it is by really involving people that the deep issues are exposed and addressed and long-term committment to the solution achieved.

Then the decision processes are far too drawn out and I often wonder if the purpose of the processes, typically involving layers of committees, is to avoid being able to hold anyone to account.

What business has to contribute is the urgency and recognition that change can and should happen faster – if I had a philosophy in this arena (and this is a deliberate caricature) it is “make the change and sort any mess out later” (there will always be mess!), whereas the public sector seems to be “try everything we can to avoid any mess” – a forlorn hope. How much more effective could we be if we applied the Pareto Principle rather than trying to get everything 110% right before moving. By the time the public sector has consulted, considered, decided, planned, consulted about the implementation plan, etc, the goalposts have changed!