The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.

Peter Drucker

A Business Transformation Depends on Effective Communication with the Front Line

1. The supervisory level in your business is like a Sergeant Major.

An Army depends on its Sergeant Majors. They determine its success in battle. Similarly, your business depends on your “Sergeant Majors”: your Level 1 managers, your supervisors. They “run” your business and determine whether it succeeds.

2. Do your change programs treat Supervisors with the respect they deserve?

Do you bypass them and interact directly with “their troops”? Or do you first win them over to support the change initiative and then let them win over and prepare their teams for the upcoming change? Who do their troops trust more during times of uncertainty: the Senior Executive at head office or their Sergeant Major sitting in the trench with them?

3. Do you communicate directly with your Supervisors?

Or do the change messages get filtered by middle management? How many layers do the change messages need to pass through before they reach the critical front line workers? How do Chinese whispers distort the change message?


1. Assess each change initiative.  Do your supervisors have a central role in the shaping of the change solution and in the preparation of the workforce for the change?
2. Sketch out the channel Do you and the change team deal directly with your supervisors?  Line managers should support the communications but not own it.
3. Review the communications messages sent to date.  Are the messages about the change relevant to each worker at a personal, micro level?  Do they answer the critical WIIFM – what’s in it for me? Or are they generic, corporate gibberish that alienate your work force?


“Communicating Change” by TJ Larkin
“Leading Change” by John Kotter
“Our Iceberg is Melting” by John Kotter