Change is a constant in the life of every individual and organisation. It’s perhaps surprising, then, that many of us struggle to manage it correctly. Research suggests that the majority of change management initiatives derail and fail to deliver value.
What is change? In simple terms, it is a transformation, a transition. It is what it takes to go from point A (current status) to point B (desired future status).
Whether it is a merger or an acquisition, the introduction of new software or the restructuring of a company, change takes time to be planned and most of all to be implemented. For example, it is not unusual for major integration to take a minimum of 18 months to be completed. At the beginning of the process people are full of beans and motivated, but this often decreases after a few months – leading to frustration and resistance. These are all factors that can have a detrimental impact on the success of the change initiative.
Bring home the benefits
What can you do to keep the momentum going? One of the most important actions is to identify quick wins – tangible benefits that are achieved early in the change process and have an immediate impact on it. They are also highly visible to employees.
Let’s take a simple analogy. If an individual aims to lose 15 kilos in 12 months, it will be very likely that in the first week his motivation to stick to a diet and exercise will be very high. After a few weeks, this will decrease significantly, with chocolate cravings, lack of time to exercise, business lunches and more. There is a constant temptation to return to the old way of doing things.
However, if the individual reaches quick wins after a few weeks (eg consistent weight loss, fitting into smaller clothes) the motivation to stick to the diet and fitness routine will be much higher. This is exactly what happens during a major change management initiative. Unless people can see results early on, they will likely lose interest and motivation.
If change is aimed at increasing staff engagement, quick wins can be actions such as creating an ‘employee of the month’ award. They do not have to be big and expensive, just visible, related to the goal and timed to gain and maintain momentum.
How do you set appropriate quick wins?
- Brainstorm with the change management team, change sponsor and line managers. Set up sessions aimed at gathering ideas among senior members of the organisation.
- Run focus groups and surveys. Ask employees for ideas on what they would like to see in the areas affected by change, and make sure you follow up on these even if you do not intend to implement them. If you ignore proposals, employees will think that you are not ‘walking the talk’ and will lose interest in the change initiative.
- Examine the impact of implementing a quick win. Make sure the change is not going to create more hassle than benefits. If, for example, the employee of the month award is going to require a lengthy administrative process, this could cause antagonism among members of the team. Remember the rule ‘for every action, there is a reaction’. You want the reaction to be beneficial for the change.