GuideStar Home


Transforming Vision into Action

Accelerated Results through Change Communications

Copyright, Ira Kerns, John Bachmann, Ph.D. and Robert Kriegel, Ph.D.



For many companies today, change is the agenda. For some, like AT&T, change was ordained. For others, it's a mandate driven by a changing marketplace. But for most, change is a strategy. Corporations are adopting proactive strategies, anticipating change, not merely participating in it, but responding and leading.

The forces of change are myriad; government, technology, competition, customers, etc. Internally, change is driven by corporate leaders with vision, goals, and strategies who desire both improvements in corporate performance and the transformation of the enterprise for continued long term success.

In our experience, successful corporate mission and change programs utilize the unique abilities of a communication program as one of the catalysts for change throughout the organization. The meetings and presentations bring people together to share a common, unifying purpose. They create memorable, motivational, bonding experiences.

In the hands of a dynamic leadership team, communications can be a powerful instrument in transforming an organization's priorities, behavior and performance. If developed and implemented professionally, a program of strategic communications can focus the human resources of the entire company and energize a critical mass of employees to action.

There are several basic communication formats, or strategies, we've developed for these special programs; the Cascade, the Big Event and Infusion. Results are highly visible in terms of a dramatically improved internal climate and in terms of organizational performance.

The bottom-line. . . a winning organization.

Communications professionals can make a vital contribution by recognizing the communication need as it is forming and providing leadership in that time of opportunity. They can give shape and purpose to the entire process.


We Believe .....

  • People possess a great capacity for creativity and energy, which can be directed toward either supporting change or resisting it.
  • Organizations can be rapidly revitalized or transformed by positively energizing employees toward a compelling new vision.
  • Transformational leadership is most effective when senior management is committed to achieve change through existing employees rather than through replacements.
  • Transformational leaders can most effectively implement change by focusing, energizing and reinforcing employee behavior through an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach using company-wide Change Communications as a driving force -- supported by training and development, team problem-solving and reward and recognition programs.
  • Organizations are complex, open systems with interdependent parts. To be effective, planned change efforts must be comprehensive and "organization-wide" in scope, incorporating the principles of Change Psychology.


  • Trying to change behavior by mandate instead of by modifying beliefs, perceptions and attitudes
  • Management vision is not meaningful or motivational to employees
  • Potential resistance of all stakeholders is not sufficiently evaluated or recognized
  • Lack of employee incentive and participation
  • No overall plan and change strategies
  • Weak launch vehicle fails to create imperative for change and necessary team spirit
  • Tentative trial and error implementation approach
  • Insufficient management commitment and poor ongoing communications
  • Inadequate training for managers and employees
  • Failure to track results and give recognition for accomplishment


In recent years, more and more companies have been widely recognized for accomplishing dramatic shifts in behavior and performance.

Our study of these efforts has lead us to identify ten common characteristics of successful change efforts:

  • Driven by a Transformational Leader Highly Visible
  • Compelling Vision Clear and Easy to Communicate
  • Focused on Being the Best Winning
  • Sense of Urgency Quick Implementation
  • Large Scale Effort Company-wide Change
  • People, Not Paper Driven High Employee Participation
  • Team Spirit "Get On or Get Off"
  • High Recognition Individual and Group Champions
  • Problem, Not Program Driven Work Out Details Along the Way
  • Built on Existing Strengths Retained and Refused Some of Company Tradition


There are two important reasons why the Energizing Change Process works when other approaches frequently fail.

  • Energizing Change recognizes that to really change behavior in a lasting way it is necessary to create internal motivation by changing employee beliefs, perceptions and attitudes.
  • Energizing Change is a multidimensional approach for effecting change.


Achieving new performance goals requires new behavior on the part of people, both as individuals and as interacting groups. Behavioral change can be accomplished two ways... through external and/or internal means. The Energizing Change Process emphasizes the internal, but pragmatically also incorporates some external aspects.

Externally driven change tends to be easy to effect in the short run but difficult and increasingly expensive to sustain in the long run. External means include coercive approaches, such as applying new rules, procedures, close supervision, and manipulative approaches, such as giving bonuses, perks, etc. as extrinsic rewards.

Internally driven change requires more up front investment in time and energy, but much less ongoing cost and effort to sustain it. Internal motivation comes from intrinsic rewards such as feelings of achievement, recognition and growth.

It is a powerful, self-generating motivation that is created through building employee understanding, agreement and commitment to new ideas and goals.

The Energizing Change Process works not by lighting a fire under people but by lighting a fire inside them. It creates in people the ability and desire to do new things not because they have to, but because they want to.

The process rapidly changes employee beliefs, perceptions, attitudes and behaviors through:

  • Focusing people on what needs to be done and why
  • Energizing a critical mass of people to action
  • Reinforcing accomplishments to sustain change

 Energizing Change Process--Moves People:

  • From their "Current Performance State" and existing knowledge, perceptions, attitudes and behaviors
  • To a new "Desired Performance State" with new knowledge, perceptions, attitudes and behaviors

 1. Focusing - Providing direction and leadership

  • Vision
  • Mission
  • Values
  • Goals
  • Standards
  • Strategies

 2. Energizing - Gaining understanding, agreement and action

  • Catalytic Communications
  • Education and Training
  • Participation and Team Building
  • Visible Management Action
  • On-Going Feedback

 3. Reinforcing - Building on-going commitment

  • On-Going Communications
  • Revised Reward Systems
  • Evaluation of Results
  • Individual and Group Recognition Programs

Management provides direction and leadership using clearly articulated vision and strategy statements.

Powerful Change Communications are used to gain understanding and agreement and to be the catalyst for initial action. Training, employee participation, management actions and ongoing feedback support this. After change has been initiated, ongoing commitment is built over time through continuing communication programs, revisions of reward systems to reinforce the new direction, evaluation of performance results and heavy emphasis on individual and group recognition .


The process does not try to solve complex problems with a single disciplinary approach. It is a multi-dimensional approach incorporating corporate communications, human resource management, motivational psychology and organizational development.

The Process is driven by Change Communications, a unique series of strategically designed employee meetings and events and related print, video, e-mail, intranet and collateral materials combined with the principles of motivational psychology.

However, powerful communications alone do not create sustained change. They must be carefully combined with appropriate training, employee participation, recognition, and reward and management actions.


Breaking the process into distinct operating stages is the most effective way to manage a comprehensive change program. All the focusing, energizing and reinforcing elements of the process are brought into action through a five-step approach.

Management Prerequisites:

  • Top Management - Leadership and Commitment
  • All Managers - Behaving as Described In Each Stage

1. Planning

  • Missionary Change Champion

2. Initiating

  • Visible Top Management Leadership

3. Installing

  • Enthusiastic Management Participation

4. Sustaining

  • On-Going Modeling and Commitment

5. Building

  • Revitalized Vision and Action

Research, Assessment and Measurement Are On-Going Throughout the 5 Stages.

The Five Steps:

1 ) Planning for change involves analyzing the various stakeholders, anticipating resisting forces, articulating the mission, developing a set of change plans and designing a measurement and evaluation program. A change management team is selected and delegated responsibility to direct the effort.

2 ) Initiating is accomplished through an appropriate Change Communications program that gains understanding and agreement and motivates employees to action. Designated change leaders are trained to lead unit efforts. Additional management training is conducted, if necessary, to assist all managers in understanding the psychology of change and in developing leadership and team building skills.

3) Installing is the process of implementing the change. Ongoing communication is important while management makes the required structural, staffing and systems modifications. Employee participation and problem solving task forces are utilized to generate ideas and work out program details. Recognition and support is given to implementation leaders.

4.) Sustaining the change is accomplished through providing individual and group recognition for accomplishment and getting the human resource systems aligned with the new corporate mission. Reward and recognition programs are revised and employee selection, orientation and training programs are changed to support new values and goals. Ongoing evaluation of results and periodic accomplishment reports to the organization are key to building company-wide commitment.

5) Building involves trying to reach higher levels of effectiveness once the basic changes have been sustained for some period of time. The overall change plan is reviewed, focusing statements and other materials are revised, and a new major communications program is launched. This is the beginning of another cycle in the change process.

The five-step process can become a continuing progression for ongoing change each time the cycle is repeated.

Ongoing change is effected in stages, not in a linear manner. People cannot be continuously exposed to new change ideas and objectives. Instead, they should be permitted enough time to learn and practice one set of new ideas and behaviors, and be recognized for their achievements, before new levels of change are presented.

Ongoing change is really a spiraling process where each cycle builds on the previous ones, but in distinct stages.


How Change Communications Moves People

The real power of the process comes from how Change Psychology is incorporated into every aspect. Each element is an integral means to the end of changing behavior.

The process by which individuals arrive at behavioral change involves a critical sequence of psychological stages. Positive mental and emotional responses to the change must be generated to create desired action and results.

However, people are generally resistant to change. Negative responses can easily result from things like lack of understanding and agreement, concern for self-interest, resentment and fear.

If the psychological stages do not occur in the proper sequence and if potential resistance is not anticipated and directly addressed, then change is impeded. The process achieves positive results in an accelerated manner by overcoming resistance throughout its process of focusing... energizing... and reinforcing.

Change Psychology

  • Current Picture and Vision
  • Mental and Emotional Actions Producing Results
  • New Picture and Vision

People and the organization moving, transforming and progressing:

  • Understanding - I understand
    • Agreement -I agree
      • Motivation - I want to
        • Confidence - I can do
          • Commitment - I will do
            • Action - I am trying & learning
              • Results - I am succeeding & winning
                • Growth - I am ready for more challenge


"I understand"

Change can only begin with a clear understanding of what is to be changed and why. Employees must fully comprehend what the company seeks to do and be able to relate it to themselves. They must also understand the urgency. We accomplish this by helping management articulate and communicate clear and consistent messages that create both dissatisfaction with the past and a compelling vision of the possible future.

"I agree"

Along with understanding must come agreement. The process provides the strategies and persuasive support mechanisms by which understanding is converted to agreement. The convincing presentation of the imperatives for change, coupled with open, two-way communication and small group discussions facilitate the process.


"I want to"

Beyond sharing your corporate mission, employees must feel motivation to achieve it. The process accomplishes this by clearly showing the employee what's in it for him or her how their individual efforts can make a difference, and how they will be rewarded and recognized for it.

"I can do"

It is quite possible for an employee to agree with your goals and want to achieve them but feel what is expected is beyond their abilities. We can help provide employee training techniques and development programs that overcome employee insecurity and build employee confidence. Identifying existing role models also can help.

"I will do"

Commitment is the conscious decision to do what until now has only been pondered. It is built through group interaction and feedback... creating awareness that others also are committed to action. The sense of not being alone helps reduce perceived risk as well as provides positive peer pressure .

"I am doing and learning"

Having embarked upon change often at considerable extra effort it is important that the employee gain a sense of adventure and learning from their new direction. Through continued communication with the employee about new ideas and examples of individual accomplishments, the process helps to reinforce the excitement of personal growth.


"I am getting results "

The bottom line for you and the employee is results. By continually publicizing, recognizing and rewarding employees for the results they are achieving, you create organization heroes and role models. In this manner results beget results.

"I am ready for more challenge"

Having faced and successfully adapted to the initial change, employees are capable of handling new dimensions of the change program. Goals can be reviewed and new performance targets set. Winning at change, they are ready for further growth.

Properly planned and implemented, a change program can become the mechanism by which employees not only effect the changes sought but also learns, grows and releases hitherto untapped energies and abilities.


Change Communications is a powerful, strategically designed communications program built around a unique series of employee meetings and events and related print, video, e-mail, Intranet and collateral materials.

It is implemented company-wide utilizing participatory, team building agenda designs and managers at all levels as communications leaders.

Change Communications is the principle vehicle for executive leaders to share their vision, create understanding and agreement, and mobilize a critical mass of committed employees to action. For many companies, Change Communications is also used to generate a "one company" team spirit.

Change Communications meeting agendas are specifically designed to implement the Change Psychology process assuring that an optimum number of employees company-wide will commit themselves to the program as it proceeds.

This unique combination of Change Communications and Change Psychology creates an extraordinarily powerful core vehicle to energize change throughout an organization.


There are two primary Change Communications strategies

  • Cascade
  • Big Event.


Both strategies are used to generate a powerful, memorable, shared "family" experience in which employees identify with the organization and its mission, become confident of the organization's strength and ability to achieve its goals and commit to enthusiastically support and achieve the goals.

Content covered is what people want and need to know:

  • The imperatives for change
  • The vision, strategies and values of the future
  • The plan for implementation
  • The impact on their individual circumstances


The Cascade strategy is utilized when senior management's objective is to create change in an orderly sequence, rolling out the program level by level throughout the organization worldwide, creating a powerful momentum for change and incorporating the vast majority of employees' participation.

Cascade Pattern

  • Group/Division
  • Regional/Area Level Meetings
  • Individual Unit/Group/Division Meetings
  • Department Meetings
  • One-on-One Meetings

The Cascade approach consists of two phases

  • Initial management conferences
  • Employee Meetings

Cascade Approach:

Phase I - Initial Management Conferences

The program is launched with a senior management conference at which the CEO and senior staff:

  • Communicate the imperatives for change and an overview of the new vision, mission, strategies, values, etc.;
  • Through participation in seminars, workshops and informal discussion, gain understanding and agreement, deal with resistance and build confidence and commitment among the participants;
  • Motivate a management network of "champions for change";
  • Develop managers' understanding of the Change Psychology Process and skills in change management to enable them to lead their people through the change process;
  • Generate a management "esprit" among the mangers for their new leadership mission.
  • The communications program itself is a model of the new desired attitudes, style and behavior.

Phase II - Employee Meetings - THE COMPANY-WIDE ROLLOUT

Change Communications meetings are conducted throughout the company on a worldwide basis to incorporate everyone into the mission program beginning at the division or group level and ending at area or functional levels.

Change Psychology agendas and employee participation techniques are utilized to create ownership and motivation. Employees are asked to make a difference, to offer their ideas and to work together to create plans on how to achieve their mission. The object is to initiate action plans doable immediately.

People begin doing things differently and doing new things. Change has begun.


The Big Event strategy is utilized when an urgent change in attitude is required in a majority of the organization at the same time and/or action is required of everyone at the same time.

Big events utilize powerful, high quality media. They are dynamic, dramatic and exciting.

Big Event Pattern

  • Leadership Preparation
  • Big Event
  • Mini-Cascade Follow Through

A Big Event may take the form of a company-wide teleconference in sixty countries, a 5,000-person presentation at Radio City or an employee gathering at a local convention center or hotel ballroom. The entire corporate family participates in this larger than life experience.

The Mini-Cascade - Manager-led Communications - An Essential Follow through

Following a Big Event, it is imperative that employee meetings, or a Mini-Cascade, be conducted throughout the company immediately to translate and clarify the Big Event messages into specific plans and actions at operating levels throughout the organization and to channel employee enthusiasm and high spirits toward productive expression.

Prior to a Big Event, it is essential that the follow through program be committed to, planned, produced and ready to go so as not to lose the employee's enthusiasm and sense of momentum. If a substantial lapse of time between the big event and the follow through does occur, not only will the momentum be lost, but also the entire program's credibility can come into question.

Media - Intranet Updates, Publications, Videos, PC Software And Collateral Media

These all play an important roll in the change program. Their mission is to extend, expand, clarify and reinforce the messages and themes built into the meetings. In addition, a dedicated daily Intranet program update channel with a feedback loop should be put in place to keep everyone current on changing situations and address people's questions and concerns. Special new mission publications and videos may also be created to focus exclusively on the program.

Publications and videos are especially useful for providing recognition, establishing new role models for success and creating credibility and a sense of momentum for the program following the initial employee meetings.


To enrich, stimulate and build esprit company-wide, a Spirit Program is built around the theme of the mission program utilizing a variety of collateral, promotion and motivation materials and programs such as posters, stationary, mugs, buttons, contests, etc.


  • Expanding the impact
  • Optimizing your Return On Communications Investment

The financial community, shareholders, customers, suppliers, local communities and other external groups all have important stakes in the corporation's future and its success.

Media and executive presentations created for the employee communications program; speeches, slides, video, printed materials, network and software programs, etc. communicate the company's new direction, strategies, strengths, and values.

These presentations can serve as the core of a multitude of events to enhance shareholder loyalty and the corporation's stature, strengthen its stock price, help sell products and services, recruit new employees, facilitate communications in acquisition efforts, enhance supplier relationships, etc. It is a broad, flexible communications resource.

Manager-led Communications - Key Leadership Role

Following the initial launch communications, the program shifts into an on-going mode with managers at all levels taking a leadership role as primary communications resources, coaches and motivators. This often requires special training and development of managers to fulfill these roles effectively. Such training should be built into the design of the overall change plan.

Through a strategic combination of print, video, software; Intranet, extranet and Internet communications; recognition events, frequent manager-led team and one-on-one meetings, managers at all levels take the lead in clarifying information, coaching and motivating people. In this way, the mission's momentum and focus is reinforced and sustained.


Revised compensation, rewards and recognition programs centered on motivating individual performance to achieve the new corporate strategies are developed and introduced into the organization.


Support is provided to assure that qualified people in the company with ability and desire can develop the new skills and experience required for them to continue to meaningfully contribute to the achievement of the new strategies.


Copyright 2012, GuideStar Communications. All rights reserved.

For more information, contact:
Ira Kerns
Phone:  212-426-2333 
Fax:  212-427-7514


GuideStar Communications, 451 E. 84th St., Suite 7D New York, NY 10028


Deep Dialog
 - Examine the DNA of 21st century organizational communications.

How to create a customer satisfaction questionnaire                  

Free research tools - sample table and margin applet for SPSS. 

Learn about survey research - Key sections of this site now have "how to" and overview information for managers interested in learning more about the basics of research - plus a dedicated section of the site - Communications Measurement

Key Site Links

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Organizational Communications Audits

Human Resources Surveys

Upward Feedback & 360 Feedback

MPP - Meeting Productivity Process

Strategic Literacy Services

GuideStar Services

About GuideStar

Principal Consultants

Clients Served

Publications & Slides

Related Links

Deep Dialog Audits

Free Research Tools  & Site Feedback