How to get buy in for communicating change from ‘non-comms’… using a chocolate cake

By Ant Cousins, Director of Customer Success at ProFinda.

It’s often tricky to get support from senior stakeholders about communicating change effectively. We’ve all been there. You explain the likely impact on the internal audience of the change, how it will be perceived, how they probably already know more about the programme than has been openly discussed internally but, no matter how hard you try, it’s tough. You’ll probably always have a minority of people who think you only want to communicate about the change because you love communicating and it would be best not to say anything about it until they know exactly what the impact of the change is. And by that they mean 6 months after the change has happened…

So, to get over this issue I developed an intro to a ‘change communications’ workshop which nobody will ever forget, and might actually help win over those ‘non-comms’ types. Here’s how it works:

  1. Invite all the key stakeholders to a meeting to offer them your thoughts and previous experience on communicating change. Be very clear that there will be free cake for anyone that attends.
  2. When they arrive to the meeting have a warm chocolate cake in front of you. Make sure it smells and looks great. I find the ones with chocolate icing you heat up and pour over work best for this.
  3. Before you start your presentation tell them about the cake. Read the ingredients like it’s from an M&S advert, “soft luxurious sponge with rich dark chocolate” etc etc. Then after saying all that ask them if you served them a piece of this cake at a dinner party, how satisfied would they be on a scale of 1–10. Count up from 1 and ask people to raise their hands. Most hands will go up at around 8, 9, 10 etc.
  4. Thank them and then ask who would like a piece? When the first hand goes up say great, then stick your hand in the cake and rip off a messy chunk and hand it to them. There will be gasps and that person will recoil in disgust. Then say, but don’t you want it? They’ll say no. You can then say but it’s the same cake? The same soft luxurious sponge, same rich dark chocolate icing? Why don’t they want it? To which they will answer cos it’s a mess or, cos it’s all over your hand.
  5. Now for the point. Ask the same question of the audience again, how satisfied would they be if you served them this cake, presented like this, all over your hand. Count down from 10 and most hands will go up at 1 or zero. An almost ten-fold decrease in perceived satisfaction.
  6. Now play the first slide of your deck, which will say “Presentation is important, because perception is reality”.

You’ve then got them hooked and they’ll be ready to listen to whatever you want to say about communicating change. After all, it could be a great change project but if it’s presented like that cake it’ll have no support and nobody will perceive it as successful.

If you liked this post, please send me cake.

About the author

Antony Cousins is the Director of Customer Success at ProFinda — connect with him at antony.cousins[at], LinkedIn and Twitter.

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