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Communicating Business Decisions


C: Welcome to Slingshot25’s Shotcast. A series of podcasts that feel like an espresso shot to your brain. I’m Courtney.

J: And I’m Jackie. 

C: I almost said I’m Jackie.

J: Weird, because you’re not. 

C: So, today we’re going back to basics. It’s an exciting time at Slingshot25 because we have added change, well we’ve always had change services, let’s face it. But, we’ve added a communication arm to our portfolio of services.  And it is super exciting because you can’t do change without communication.  And, so much of what teams struggle with is making business decisions and communicating them. 

There are four steps for communicating business decisions.  Four steps of communicating business decisions –  start with the “why,” tell people where you’re going, outline the plan to get there, and tell people what’s expected of them.  What could be easier?

J:  What could be?

C: What could be, so I’m going to let you dig in Jackie because I know you love purpose and I know you love Simon Sinek’s work around the “whys.” What would you tell people about communicating the “whys” of a change?

J: Well the first thing I’d like to back up just even a little bit there where you said we aren’t very good at communicating business decisions and that’s been my experience. That’s what I see that’s our first stumbling out of the gate is that we make a decision sometimes and don’t even realize that we’ve made a decision. It feels amongst the people who are making decisions it feels like all in a day’s work – done deal. And in that moment there’s very little cognizance that the real work now begins. The real work is behind you.

C:  When they also think that people know that you’ve made a decision when you haven’t told anyone.  Like of course they know, we sent an email whatever.

J:  So they have to do some backing up themselves. The decision makers themselves have to back up and think about the why because there is a whole bunch of psychology around people wanting to know what they’re connected to and what’s the purpose of what they’re doing.  And they don’t need to know that on the level that we sometimes fear they need to know they don’t necessarily need all of the entire backstory of what you know what brought us to this moment of having to make this decision. I think it’s much lighter than that in some ways. It’s a simple acknowledgement of the basics of why you’re in business.

C: And that’s really important. Because one of the other things we’ve learned is that when we communicate the business decision and we get super excited about what. And that’s fine, but if we skip the Why, you actually create distrust in your organization, did you know that?  If I don’t have the context,  if you didn’t take the time to tell me the pieces I start filling in the blanks with things, again our brains are wired for negative, we fill in the space with assumptions that aren’t healthy.  So sharing the context, starting with the “why,” and making that part of your communicating decision process is really important. 

The second step is to say where you’re going. You have to give people a picture of where you’re going, what it’s going to be like. You’ve told them why and you have to start to outline what it’s going to look like when you get there.  so people can have something to hold on to and this is insanely important in worlds where we’re doing projects that are going to take 6 months, 12 months, a year. It’s a long time before I actually don’t know if you’ve built a house or watched a building go up, there’s a plan for a perfect picture – we don’t have blueprints in our business world.  And it’s our job to create the virtual version of that essentially.  Like the conversational that’s not a great way to say a version of what this thing going to look like so the people can buy in so they can connect so they can make decisions on a daily basis that align with where we’re headed.  It’s really important.

J: Yah, it is really important and it can actually be hard to do and you may have to take a few runs at it.  And that’s okay. I think one of the other things that generally happens with communicating change is that people feel like they’re expecting a one-shot plan, just checking their way through it. You might have to have multiple check-ins on this, multiple ways of describing it and then you know listen- listen to what our people are interpreting. Is it the way you expect that they’ll be interpreting that?

C:  And your picture might change from the conversation you had with people, right? It’s gonna move. 

J: Absolutely, so you might have to take several runs at that. Where we’re going.

C: The third step – outlining the plan to get there – I think in our organizations –  especially organizations that are large enough to have project managers and those kinds of roles is an easier thing to do. I don’t want to skip over this completely, but if anything we skip step one of the why, we skip painting the picture and we jump to what’s the cost, what’s the budget, what’s the schedule. And that’s what we’re talking about here, when are things going to happen, who’s going to do them. I think that’s our muscle that we’re most comfortable with.

J: Tends to be. Yeah I think it does tend to be an organization.  Because organizations usually the reason that they exist is to put work out into the world whether that’s building products or delivering services and in order to do the work of the business you tend to have people who know how to make plans for getting that work done. And I think it is smart to think of any change that’s coming to your organization as something you are delivering to yourself and you should have the same kind of rigor and discipline about creating those plans.

C:  The last one is my like I don’t know if you listen to the first three or not but listen to this one.  Step four, tell people what’s expected of them. This is the hardest part of communicating business decisions because the truth is you don’t know right away how your change and your business decision is going to affect every individual in your team. So you’re going to do communications that are saying this is what we’ve decided, this is why, this is where we’re going, this is the plan.  And you’re going to do a lot of those, you may do a town hall, you may send emails, you may have posters around.  The sad reality of change communication is until you can tell people what the change means to them they don’t hear very much of what you’re saying. And they are going to fill out every voice of the employee survey that you do with feedback and answer a question that says we need more communication around here.

J: Yah.  So that brings up for me this idea that the people who are at the top of the organization tend to make a lot of decisions for a lot of people. I think in some ways you have to get a thick skin because you do have to go out of the gate with you know just the the why we made this decision what the future should look like and you know starting to form plans of how we’ll get there but the only question on people’s minds in that moment is what does this mean to me specifically sitting in this seat doing the job that I do very specifically in my little box inside of maybe you know thousands of other boxes of this organization, I want to know what it means to me and you can[t answer it right then. To your point Courtney, you can’t answer it right then.  Your point Courtney you can’t answer it right then so you’ve got to get a little bit of thick skin because it’s the first thing you’re going to start hearing chatter about it’s a thing they want to know most right away and unfortunately it’s a thing that you can’t answer until later it’s like the last thing you can answer but the first thing they want to know. 

C: Yip. Well, that’s all we have in this Shotcast, but we always have more to say so check us out on Until next time. 

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