In this post, I will talk about the final phases of the change management process. This has been referred to in many ways as sustainability, re-freezing, making it stick, don't give up, reinforcement, and so on and so forth. The important thing is not what you call it, it is the intent of the work involved in the last stages of the process that will make your change successful.
In order to prevent an organization full of individuals from reverting back to their original work processes, behaviors, or thinking, it requires some work! This is the most overlooked stage in the entire change management process. The team disbands, budgets are finalized, new employees are hired, and we're ready to start something else. However, going on at the same time, is the natural human reaction to change - even at the end of the change management process. It is that, we humans
always desire to go back to the way things were! You see, change introduces confusion and chaos in our brains, and our brain says...whoa....this is uncomfortable and downright painful, let's get rid of this. And to do that we need to go back to the way things were, because we know how to think and behave in that environment. So, even though you've gone through the transition phase and introduced new tools and/or rewarded new thinking, there is still a chance that people will go backwards rather than forwards.
To counteract these natural tendencies, leaders must prepare for this. Here are some best practices I use that garner success:
- Why is lasting change so difficult?
- What will we do to be different?
- How do we reinforce the mindsets of our leaders, managers, and employees for the long term?
- How do we keep the momentum moving forward?
- Are performance results monitored and success reinforced?
- How can we lead so that others will follow? What do we have to change?
- Can we develop ways to get some quick wins?
- Have we restructured the policies and practices (reward, recognition, recruitment, etc.) to align with our change goals?
- How do our human resource, information technology, and other internal systems support the change?
- Working with resistance - advanced learning/coaching opportunities to make the change work
- Instilling resilience - control, commitment, and challenge are indicators of hardiness, one way to build resilience
- Supporting motivation - effective delegation and coaching; remember one size doesn't fit all, find out what motivates each individual; start with yourself to understand the concept of motivation; this is a process not a task
- Measuring human progress - link to change goals, business goals, strategic goals; "Follow the Line" my system of linking the bottom or top line to changes in human behavior
- Establishing feedback systems - provide staff and others the ability to receive feedback so they can gauge how they are performing with regards to the desired change
- Continuing to build trust - this is a never ending process, especially as management wants to see employees change permanently; trust includes - follow through, being consistent, empathy, build relationships, no gossip, admit mistakes, remain competent (even if this means going back to school), hold promises, etc.
- Acknowledging lessons learned - understand what they are; communicate them; be honest with what went wrong; implement learning improvements
- Engaging and involving employees (employees discretionary efforts) - institute a clear link between performance and rewards; ensure a clear differentiation in performance ratings between employees; provide non-monetary rewards (career development, lateral promotions); ensure leaders have the right competencies and styles to reinforce engagement; hire and promote the right people in right jobs; resolve long standing issues; create meaningful work and job designs; match "motivation-to-contribute" to the ability to contribute; manage the work climate; encourage collaboration; and encourage responsibility and accountability
- Embedding HR in the sustaining process - HR plays a critical role in sustaining lasting change, all HR processes, systems, structures must be aligned with the change goals; and develop the employee value proposition
- Learning and development - develop the enlightenment of a 21st century leader - this is an investment not an expense; linked to business goals; provide a variety of ways to obtain information; linked to culture; and personal effectiveness and organizational effectiveness are correlated
- Retention programs - measure morale; challenge people with new assignments; ensure a climate of pride; build a positive work environment; hold managers accountable; implement management style inventories and corrective measures (biggest reasons people quit jobs - dissatisfied with their supervisor - L Argote professor at Carnegie Mellon and editor-in-chief of Organization Science).