Six Factors for Making Change Stick

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In today’s ever-changing environment, I think we can all agree that managing change is important. Change management is becoming a key part of most organizations, and we are seeing an increasing number of clients implementing dedicated change management functions within their organizations. But having a change management function, and actually implementing changes that are sustainable, are two different things. Many organizations remain focused on change management at the project level, and implement it project-by-project, without considering what it takes to encourage lasting change across their organization. To implement sustainable change across your organization, change management must be at the center of your business – embedded in your company culture and in how you select and run projects. Each of the following six success factors are important to making change happen and to making it stick. If you are creating a new change management function, evaluating your current program, or just trying to understand how to create sustainable change, consider whether your organization is embracing these factors.

1. Create a Culture of Change 

Within most organizations, change is handled inconsistently, project-by-project and there is little done to shift the underlying mindset of the organization. Creating a culture of change embeds the change mindset into the organization, which surfaces in day-to-day operations. Employees begin to expect change and embrace it, reducing resistance and allowing changes to sustain. To create a culture of change:

  • Encourage your executives to lead with a change management mindset
  • Make change management a core part of the way every project is run and embed it in your project methodology
  • Ensure all team members are aware of the need for, and the value of, change management
  • Embrace change, both positive and negative, within the organization
  • Find fun ways to reinforce changes, and reward those that have adopted the change

2. Mobilize and Empower your Change Management Team

Change management ownership should extend far beyond your change management function. Executives should ensure that there is clear change management leadership and ownership for all projects and programs. Additionally, change management teams should leverage key influencers across the organization as change agents who will advocate for the change and help anticipate resistance, which will allow the team to be more effective. Once the change is implemented, these change agents can help reinforce the change and provide support at the ground level. To best empower your change team:

  • Ensure that change roles are clear across the organization, including the expectations of your executives and project sponsors
  • Position change resources as critical partners who can enable project success, so that they are seen as an asset, not a liability
  • Reinforce, through strong leadership and communication, that change is necessary; rally the employees behind each change initiative

3. Communicate Early and Often

Clear, effective communication is a critical component of successful change management. It is impossible to over-communicate when an organization is going through a change. Not communicating the right information in frequent intervals causes skepticism, concern, and fear – all of which put the change at risk. Communicating clearly, consistently, frequently, and through multiple channels will provide transparency into the change and make employees feel that they are a part of it, rather than feeling that the change is happening to them. This gives them a sense of ownership that will carry through long after the project is over. When planning communication for your projects and programs:

  • Define key messaging and a “burning platform” for each project before it begins
  • Anticipate points of resistance and plan/message accordingly
  • Openly address concerns and anxieties with transparency

4. Integrate Change Management into Portfolio Planning

Successful Change Management extends past the delivery of communications and training phase of a project; it needs to be embedded in the organization’s portfolio planning. Understanding the full impact of the projects across the organization will allow executives to select the right projects, at the right time, and implement them in a way that will be sustainable. When considering change across your project portfolio:

  • Identify and evaluate the level of change introduced by each new project
  • Monitor and address change impacts (and watch for change saturation) across the organization
  • Ensure that your impact assessment is not “one and done” – monitor designs to ensure that the true impact is understood

5. Measure the Impact of Change

Determining performance metrics for change management can be tough; how do you measure how someone is feeling about a change and turn that into meaningful data? In Prosci’s most recent benchmark survey, they studied how organizations are measuring change in a meaningful way and determined that there are three main areas of focus: (1) understanding how change is progressing within the organization, (2) what change management strategies are most effective, and (3) the effect on overall project effectiveness. Understanding and reporting on the impact of change will allow the organization to continue to refine its change management strategy, furthering its impact on future projects. As you look to measure your change impact:

  • Define performance measures that allow you to quantify the impact of your change activities
  • Maintain a disciplined focus on obtaining a change baseline at the beginning of each project
  • Plan time to measure the change impact at the end of each project and to celebrate the success

6. Create a Feedback Loop

Creating a feedback loop empowers employees and gives them a voice. This creates a sense of ownership and investment in the process, which increases the effectiveness of the change program. Make sure that employees know that you are listening and incorporating their feedback, so that they continue to share their thoughts. When designing a feedback loop:

  • Solicit feedback from key stakeholders, including impacted employees, on what’s working, and what isn’t, with change management
  • Make adjustments as needed to ensure that change management delivers maximum value within the organization

Making change stick does not happen overnight; it takes thoughtful planning, coordination, and a shift in mentality. Investing the time in creating a culture of change will allow your organization to make change happen and to sustain it more quickly, and with more success, than ever before.

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