In the change process there are two critical danger points that can derail even the most focused change initiatives. These occur at the very beginning as the change is being defined, and at the end, when building an exit strategy.
Danger Point #1 – Poor Definition
Sustaining a change must begin when the change starts – at the point when change advocates are defining what the end state will look like. The more complete that picture is, the greater the potential that it’ll achieve.
Defining the Elements
Consider, for example, a new inventory tracking system. The issues are defined, the system is specified, and the process for accessing information and providing it to those who need it is also well defined. That’s the desired state.
But is it?
Consider the current belief, held by the inventory control clerk who will use this system. Will he/she know what to do with the data? What about the clerk’s job description and performance measures? Will the amount of time spent on this activity change?
When a change is designed from the perspective of a process, technology, or physical design, and not from the perspective of the person who will be doing the job, sitting in the new location, or working with the new tool, it is easy to overlook certain elements that have to change. And if we leave those elements undefined, the old way is still in place.
Defining What Can Be Altered
A second vulnerable point that needs to be addressed at the beginning of the project is whether there is clarity and agreement regarding what can be altered. When designing the desired state, change agents must – at each point where an element has been defined – ask that question: What about this element can be changed, modified, adjusted, enhanced, or allowed to slip back after the new current becomes a reality?
Change agents know it is critical to identify not just the desired state, but also some means to determine that it has been achieved. Defined and observable measures are the determinants of when it is time to celebrate that the change is complete. But even at that, the change process is still not complete. Change agents must also determine how the management who takes over responsibility for the new current state will continue to measure and observe to ensure that there is no more slippage than that determined to be acceptable. What are the upper and lower boundaries of the measures or behaviors that can be tolerated while still getting the results that were defined when the change was launched?
This first danger point can seriously impact the success of your change program.