Posters are lovely, but…

If you’re interested in internal communications, one of the best practitioners to follow is Rachel Miller, a consultant working in the UK. As well as writing a mountain of useful stuff on her own blog, she is a constant source of interesting reads from all over.

The other day, Rachel linked to a short piece from a UK change management firm: The Challenges of Communicating Strategic Direction – Don’t Bother With the Mouse Mats. One of the hardest things about working in communications is pushing back in the face of requests for a poster, an email, or a slideshow. The message has been figured out, and all that’s needed is a whiz bang poster for the tearoom before behaviour change follows suit! It can be tricky to get people to wind back from a focus on the tactics, especially when they’re excited about a new plan (or they have a target to meet!).

The piece, which summarises a more in-depth report, explains the difference between individual understanding (reading the words on the poster) and shared meaning (recognising the value of the message and how it relates to your role in the organisation).

“…we find clients can get caught in the trap of thinking individual understanding is enough for culture to adapt and change; this is where the mouse mats sit. But, Cultures are built on shared meaning not individual understanding. It’s about investing time with your people to have genuine dialogue about what this bunch of words means to their part of the organisation, their context and their culture.”

Another great jumping off point for understanding shared meaning is this great video, by Matthew Koschmann. When I was studying organisational communications I used it to get my head around the initial concepts and it helped so much.

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