Communication kills the Change

How often have we experienced such a situation: over a couple of week, a small group of experts have prepared a detailed plan about the forthcoming reorganization. As they have spent so many hours and efforts they had no doubts anymore that this is the right way to go, a development without any alternative. As the detailed plan was approved, the CEO treads the boards and announced the new strategy and structure for the company. The presentation is based on high gloss brochures and professional looking PowerPoint slides. And at the end of the presentation: people do not understand the case for action and the change team is complaining the poor commitment, does not understand the reaction and is more than ever convinced that the change has to be pushed even harder in the organization. It is the beginning of those examples, which are part of these statistics that most of the change management projects fails. But do they fail because of the change intension, or because we are not able to take the people on the change journey in a way they can understand the case for action?


When I started reading neuroscience publication and practicing the different NLP methods, I was found it very interesting to learn the principals of our brain. These principals are today used in many different business contexts: neurodidactic, neuromarketing, neuroleadership and many more. Neuro” in front of the existing field comprises the understanding of how people respond in communication processes. So I was starting to adapt this learning in my change management projects (and the idea of NeuroChange was born), as in all our transformation, communication was the key in the learning process. So what are these findings:

  1. the change story must be emotional!
    learning happens over the emotional bonding. The more emotional and exciting the case for action is communicated the better the people can keep the message; a key picture compared to a good story (metaphor)!

  2. the change story must have solely positive messages!
    once we hear messages combined with fears, this will effect – over the Amygdala in our brain – controlled and uncontrolled behavior patterns which we will never be able to remove during the entire transformation process.

  3. the change story needs to be consistent!
    people are listening extremely careful what the management is saying (including their body language as also the body is communicating to the audience). Our brain aspire after coherence!

  4. the change story shall prize the present!
    the future shall not be presented in an abstract manner. News will be intensified transferred to the cortex when it is put in related to something known. Therefore, the present we know better than the future.

  5. the change story is the story of the management!
    The management has a role model function. Unconsciously we take the pattens of actions to the persons we have a relation to it (via our mirror neurons). We constantly check how we would act if we would be in the position of the others.

  6. the change story has to be repeated over and over again!
    new pattern are blocking at the beginning more space in our cortex. Every once in a while we hear this story, this space will be reduced and be transferred to the subcorticale area and thereof be transferred to the subliminal. Therefore we cannot expect that this will happen when the people will hear the story the first time.

  7. people need to feel the change story!
    our brain is obviously using different, independent strategies, to keep new content in its memory; this is based on sematic and episodic memory functions. Facts need to be combined with personal experiences (e.g. to link the story with a suitable simulation game).

Learning from our brain: it is not that difficult to take the people on the new journey; we just need to give them a hand by using the right communication pattern. It more up to the x-mitter (top management) whether they will be committed to the change rather than consignee. And at the end its all about communication whether we will succeed in the transformation process.