Over the years, I’ve done a lot of change work, with both small companies where everyone is co-located and large organizations where staff is distributed worldwide. I’ve found the one thing they all have in common is the need for staff to understand the change initiative.  They need to understand, at its essence, what it’s all about.

You can help build understanding by creating monikers that quickly label the change and embed it into the DNA of your initiative. For example, Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation by the American Nurses Association; the name says it all. It’s about measurably improving the health of America’s 4 million nurses and, through that, the health of the nation.

A simple, elegant label can go a long way in conveying what you’re trying to accomplish, but you must also have tolerance for messy conversations. We all come with different biases, filters, and perspectives. People will test their understanding of the initiative, push against the limits, try and poke holes in it, look at it from different perspectives. This pushback is necessary to building understanding within your organization.

While messy, this meaning-making is called social construction. Social, because it happens between more than one person, and construction because you’re building meaning. Social construction is why change leaders must have the fortitude to have tough conversations repeatedly while educating their followers on the goals of the change initiative.