“Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know” Jim Rohn.

Communicate and Engage to Infinity and Beyond!

Article by Mark Gregory:

I have never come across a single person who has been associated with change, in one form or another, that has not articulated the power of effective communication as an imperative for success. John Kotter, probably one of the single most influential people on the subject of change and change management in the last two decades, describes communication as; “one of the eight most critical steps within any business transformation”, and he talks about “communicating your vision and direction to the power of 1000”.

From my own experience, if I had received £1 every time I thought I had clearly communicated and then found myself having the same conversation (just like in the film Groundhog Day), or when the person had told me they had understood me, only to find out later that they hadn’t, I would be a very wealthy man. My experience of communication within change is that the breakdown is even more apparent, as change also invokes lots of other emotions that restrict us from receiving the correct messages.

It is my view, formed from experience, that the subject of communication is the most untapped and misunderstood element of change. If we want to effect true and sustained change, we require a bit of what Buzz has going on. We need to communicate and engage to ‘infinity and beyond’.   


Communication vs Engagement

Often when people start a conversation with me about communication, they are actually, without realising, really referring to engagement. I use a simple maturity continuum to describe communication versus engagement with respect to change.

Level 1 – Awareness:

You meet someone you know and ask them, “Have you heard about the change that is going on?” They haven’t, so you make them aware by explaining it to them.

Level 2 – Understanding:

You meet someone you know and ask them, “Have you heard about the change that is going on?” They have heard of it but don’t know the detail, so you explore it with them and help them understand.

Level 3 – Advocacy:

You meet someone you know and before you can speak they say to you, “Hey, have you heard about the change that is going on?” They then proceed to tell you all about it, becoming an advocate for the change.

‘Awareness’ is communication, ‘Understanding’ is the tipping point between communication and engagement and ‘Advocacy’ is engagement. It is important that we understand where the audience is on the continuum and recognise what it may, therefore, need to move to the next stage. All too often, we assume the audience is at a more mature stage than it actually is, that all the members of the audience are at the same stage, or, worst of all, we simply do not think about it!

Communication is a process where people are aware and understand. Engagement is a process whereby people become personally implicated in the success of the change.

Organise to Communicate and Engage

Quite simply, if you want to create engagement, you have to organise to provide it and, in my experience, organisations do not. They continue to believe they can invoke change by connecting with people in the same way they have always done, using the same methods, in the same format, with the same output. Remember Approaches to Change – 1? What did we say? Without a doubt, you need to do something different here if you want a different result. Let me give you an example: when once leading a change programme within a large organisation, I actually created an engagement steering group that met at least weekly and, at times, daily over a twelve-month period. We focused on using every avenue possible, even inventing a few new avenues along the way, to connect with our change audience. We quite simply took the audience along the engagement continuum, always looking at different approaches.

Time and Energy

The success one has in this area of change is a pure function of time and energy. My experience shows that organisations and leaders generally do not apply enough time and energy in this area, preferring to work on the detail of the change rather than engaging the audience in it. Remember Approaches to Change – 3?  No involvement generally means no commitment. How much time do you spend focusing on the change engagement proposition?


Change sustainment is about engagement; engagement means advocacy, and advocacy means focused time, energy and organisation. Underestimate it at your peril!


Always remember the Buzz Light-year effect – ‘Communicate and Engage to Infinity and Beyond!’

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