Bottom line, says Walters, the key to implementing real change is to respect workers' need for quality, timely information. "When it comes down to it, organizations are people working together to meet goals," she says. "They're not inhuman machines. Change efforts fail because the language used to present them fails to recognize there are people involved."
So how do you choose the right language for explaining change to the people who have to carry it out? Patricia Riley, a communication professor at USC, suggests spending almost as much time preparing to present your change plan as you do formulating it.
Managers should first brainstorm a long list of metaphors and sentences they might use to describe the change and how it will affect employees. Then, Riley says, it's helpful to decide on a title or phrase that people will remember. "You need to decide what the overarching umbrella phrase for the change is going to be," she says. "It has to have a name that is both going to resonate with people in terms of the change and also be memorable."
For Jonathan Kramer, a San Diego-based business psychologist, perhaps the most important word to include in any presentation about change is "because." He cites a study by social psychologist Ellen Langer that showed the power of that word. When people making a request - to cut in the line at the bank or to take someone else's seat on a bus, for instance - added the word "because" to their question, the cooperation rate increased from 60 percent to 94 percent, the study found.