Avoiding Over-Communication

Effective communications are often pointed to as a critical element of any change strategy. The prevailing opinion is often that there is no such thing as too much communication. Keeping everyone fully informed is often the communications goal of an effort. This belief however can introduce additional and unnecessary risks to change efforts.

In addition to potentially tipping awareness, communications commonly increase expectations. Moreover, individuals are often advised or instructed by leadership to 'sell the benefits' to achieve interest and buy-in. But once these expectations are set, an inability to meet them only further adds to an already skeptical culture and can hurt personal credibility. One organization spent months touting the new features of a soon to go-live financial system. Unfortunately the new system’s interface proved difficult to use and some features were dropped in the initial version to get it in production on time. Users were not kind in their feedback of the new system - almost every user who provided feedback sited the promises made.


Communications associated with how long something will take possesses the same risk. Hard dates are rarely met and their broad communication early on drives almost no value. As dates move closer, along with the increased likelihood of the accuracy, communication of them makes more sense. In one organization for example, a large poster was put up in 2005 that spanned an entire hallway showing the two year implementation for a reorganization. In 2010, though the reorganization was still in progress, the poster was removed after someone asked the organization’s deputy administrator when the hallway would get ‘new wallpaper’.

Over a period of time and a series of projects and activities, missed promises and dates reduce or destroy an organization’s credibility. Unless early communications are absolutely necessary, a better approach is often to just deliver results, and then communicate the heck out of the success and its benefits. This approach lowers risk and increases an individual's personal brand as someone who can consistently execute and deliver.