Work

Designing communication to manage change

Guided strategic overhaul of CEO’s internal communication

Client: Financial technology startup

Background

For this technology company serving the finance sector, rapid growth was mostly good news. Nationwide expansion had opened up new markets and attracted new talent. But all the changes meant that many employees were disengaged and confused about the company’s vision, mission, and priorities. Leadership needed tools to get geographically dispersed staff back on track and to drive accountability with tighter performance evaluations.

The Work

After auditing the CEO's communication channels, Lex—then head of communications—pitched a strategic overhaul of the company's bimonthly all-staff meeting. Ostensibly a platform for the CEO to reinforce his leadership, the meeting had become a vehicle for team progress reports. Lacking focus and over-burdened with data, these meetings showcased what was amiss. Here’s what Lex did over several months:

  • Worked closely with the CEO to articulate and communicate a new vision and mission for the company. At the same time, Lex firmly established the CEO'S role as meeting facilitator, with select employees playing a subordinate role as subject matter experts.
  • Redesigned the meetings to focus on the CEO’s vision and strategic priorities for the upcoming year. This helped employees understand how their work tied in (or not) to the overall strategy.
  • Developed a concept for driving accountability called “At the Bar.” To introduce it, Lex created a component graphic that depicted the company’s growth from two engineers to a complex organism with multiple offices across the US. This explicitness served to defuse emotion and blame by normalizing the problems that can accompany growth. At the same time, it underscored the company’s mission and common roots. In this way, At the Bar laid the groundwork for a new mechanism to assess employees’ contributions against shared standards for quality and alignment.

Despite being new, At the Bar had to feel true, even familiar. Being thoughtful about people's tolerance for change helped “At the Bar” become an effective tool for driving accountability across the company.

Insights

  • Set a reasonable pace for change to avoid losing people along the way
  • Behavior change follows changes to your company lingo; don't try to change behavior and language simultaneously
  • When employees are thoughtfully led to a performance evaluation model they can get behind, it encourages self-awareness and critical thinking about one's contribution to the company's overall success
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