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The Value of Repetition

As I note in my first blog post on change management (, I continue to discover simple truisms as I work in change management. One of the most important to remember is “people only hear when they’re ready to hear” which is why it’s important to practice patience as a Change Leader and repeat key messages many times to ensure that they stick.

So many times, we hear from managers (even executive sponsors) and individual contributors alike, “I never heard that” even though you are certain you’ve told them before. The reason is simple: people are busy. They can only absorb so much and only attend to what they need to on any given day. That is why it’s important to remember these things when crafting a communication plan.

Timing. Just-in-time manufacturing was a big idea in managing working capital when I was in business school. That principle also applies to change management and communication. It’s not productive to send out information or conduct training before people need to use it. Information that is too early is irrelevant and either sits around unused or becomes obsolete. Time your communication as close as possible to implementation, leaving yourself enough time for back up delivery so you don’t have to land it 100% the first time it goes out.

Wording. While consistent messaging is critical, you may want to vary its expression from time to time to see if certain language breaks through the clutter better than others.

Media. Remember that different people learn in different ways, so it’s wise to deliver your message in different formats – instructor led, self-led via the web, printed materials that people can read and absorb at their own pace, etc.

Finally, the key to receptivity lies in a comprehensive change management strategy. As noted in this earlier post, a certain degree of science is involved in laying the ground work for the effective implementation of initiatives and moving people from awareness to understanding to adoption to ownership. A comprehensive communication strategy is critical, along with the other elements of your change management strategy.

A mentor of mine once said, “you’re going to get tired of my saying this…” She knew how important it was to repeat her key messages more than once to ensure that it was understood by all of us on her team and that we incorporated them into our own strategies, communication and tactical execution.

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