Message, Performance, Future: How to Communicate with Employees During Times of Crisis

By Jeffrey Saltzman


Our Message Performance Future© (MPF©) model, developed immediately after 9/11, was successfully used to describe changes that organizations needed to make to deal with a crisis and to work through the change, and can help now: Message: Is there absolute clarity regarding what the organization is about, how it will operate and how each person contributes to delivering on these goals? Importantly, are the organizational communications delivering that Message consistently throughout all levels of the organization? Are policies and practices in-line with that Message? During times of change is it clear how the organization is changing, what the expected benefits of the change will be and what each person’s role in the change effort is? Performance: Are people generally getting what they need to be able to deliver on that Message – to get the job done? US Air Marshalls after 9/11 who could not blend in with the other passengers were handicapped in their ability to deliver on the Message, to provide increased security on flights. Performance should be thought of in the broadest sense, including such areas as teamwork, communications, decision making, training, equipment, resources, processes and procedures. Future: Do people feel like they have a Future and a sense of belonging, of being valued by the organization? Is there a reason for them to stay long-term? Organizations will have varying degrees of success with each of these key elements. If you are strong on Message and Future, but weak on Performance, you likely have inefficient processes and poor customer service. If you are strong on Performance but weak on Message you can have inconsistent performance. If you have Message and Performance but are weak on Future you can have talented individuals walking out the door. The organizations that are most successful at implementing needed change while also keeping their employees engaged during a crisis are those that are strong in all three areas. Now, at a time when the future is uncertain, and your workers are likely doing their jobs remotely, it is critical to ensure you have all three aspects met. It is essential to communicate regularly and consistently about the change process, as well as about people’s roles during and after the change; it is just as critical to provide people with what they need to Perform and give people a sense of Future after the change. More information on the Message-Future-Performance model can be found in Chapter 8 of Creating the Vital Organization by Jeffrey Saltzman and Scott Brooks