When people do not share a common language, it can lead to confusing, even hilarious results. Consider the classic Abbott and Costello skit “Who’s On First,” where both comedians are saying the same words but meaning completely different things. While this conundrum makes for great comedy, it can cause real problems in our organizations. And lack of a common language doesn’t just manifest in people assigning different meaning to the same word; it can also result in people using vastly different terms to describe the same thing. This can cause frustration, misunderstanding, and decreased efficiency as people decipher each other’s language.
The Value of a Common Language for Change
Change is often seen as ambiguous and difficult to understand. When the language an organization uses to discuss change is varied and inconsistent, this inconsistency only exacerbates the issue of ambiguity. However, if a common language for change - an inclusive set of words and phrases that are used to describe and understand change - is established, change can be viewed as a concrete process with relatable stages that can be managed.
Establishing a common language for change gives organizations an opportunity to clarify and articulate what change is. Establishing a common language also ensures people can use a shared vernacular and removes the risk of unique, but potentially incorrect, interpretations. Finally, establishing a common language streamlines the conversations around change; rather than spending time clarifying what is meant by the language being used, the common language allows for change to be discussed efficiently and effectively across the entire organization.
What the Research Says
“ADKAR has allowed us to more openly discuss change and manage change at all levels. It has prompted thought and caused more questions to be asked (a good thing) throughout the organization. Just for these reasons, we have increased our ability to deal with and adapt to change.” - Applications of ADKAR Study participant
In our Applications of ADKAR research study, we asked users of the Prosci ADKAR Model to share why they established the ADKAR Model as their organizational common language for change, how they built the common language, and what the results of this effort were.
Click the image below to download all seven research reports on this use of the ADKAR Model for the resulting insights. This one features a case study of how OGE Energy established their common language for change and saw impressive organizational results.
Susie Taylor is a passionate advocate of personal and organizational change. As a Change Advisor for Prosci, she partners with organizations to implement change management strategies that drive adoption and results while fostering a positive employee experience. She has a master's degree in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, where she has also served as an instructor.