We’ve all been there. It’s time for another change and the first thing on our mind is that we want it to be successful. We’re asked a lot, “What makes change stick?”. And as you know, even with the best strategies in place, ensuring change is successful is easier said than done.
But there are some key things you can do that when followed, ensures the outlook is bright.
There are 5 critical factors that affect whether or not change is successful. Make sure you:
- Understand that change is a process: Change is a process, not a discrete event. Managing that process requires “unfreezing” the present state, managing the transition state, and “refreezing” in the desired state.
- The Desired State: Clearly defining this state is a critical first step. The strategic vision defines the desired state. The vision must be clearly understood by everyone in the company. What is the change and what are our goals? Equally important, everyone must be able to translate that vision into a picture of their own area and what it will look like when the change has occurred.
- The Current State: Once the Desired State is defined, we can go back and begin to systematically unfreeze the old way. Even when the end result of our change is highly desirable, it is not easy to give up the old way. It’s comfortable, it’s predictable, and it’s easier. We can’t expect that agreeing to a change is an automatic guarantee that it will happen.
- The Delta State: The Delta State is where the changes occur, where new definitions and new behaviors are defined, where people learn how to do things the new way. The Delta, by nature, is uncomfortable. The ambiguity and uncertainty create a high degree of stress and productivity drops. People want to do things with higher quality standards. They may be very glad the company is making this commitment. But that doesn’t mean they change easily. In this stage of the change process things cannot be done the old way, but the new way is not well established yet.
- Hold sponsors responsible for their role: Everyone knows that senior management must be behind a change for it to be successful. But what does that mean? Senior managers must learn how to Sponsor change. They can’t just be committed to the change, they must be obsessed by it. They cannot tolerate anyone in the organization who does not support it. They must communicate their support constantly, both publicly and privately. And they must change the reward mechanisms to be sure that new behaviors are rewarded.
- Analyze resistance factors and decrease them: People don’t resist the concept of change. But they do resist the impact of the changes on the way they do their work and the way they think about themselves in relation to that work. Successfully introducing change means assessing what those specific changes are (and why), who needs to change, and what the sources of resistance will be. Then you can build a plan to address those resistance factors and reduce them.
- Build an environment that supports the change: The environment or culture builds up over the life span of a company. The change cannot be successful unless old behaviors, beliefs and unwritten rules that guide today’s actions are analyzed to determine which ones to keep and which ones to replace. The current environment is strong because it’s been around for a long time. To get rid of undesirable behaviors, beliefs and unwritten rules carefully, study that history and even more carefully, plan the change.
- Develop skilled change agents: To implement change people need to learn what it is and procedures to introduce it. But people also need to build the skills of change management. The people who are responsible for change must understand the change process and know how to build a comprehensive implementation. Eventually, lots of people in the company become change agents and things need to be done differently.
These change agents have to integrate the technical and the human elements of change into a single Implementation Plan. We can’t settle for a high degree of technical competence only. We must demand that aligned with the technical know-how is the understanding of what happens to people when they must change.
So how are you feeling? You’re probably thinking change takes work, and you’re right! Rome wasn’t built in a day and changes don’t happen that fast either, because they require time and skill.