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 How to Make Change Stick

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Join date : 2011-09-04

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PostSubject: How to Make Change Stick   How to Make Change Stick I_icon_minitimeWed Nov 09, 2011 5:18 pm

There are two clear groups of factors to take into account if you want to make changes stick and produce outstanding results quickly, efficiently and permanently: the 'internal', and the 'external'. And there's a sensitive balance to strike when you consider which to pay attention to at any given time.
Well, I've talked about 'mindsets', and I've talked about 'groupthink'. So what am I saying: that all you need to pay attention to if you want to produce effective change in your team or your organisation is the attitudes, values and beliefs of yourself and the people you work with?
The Balancing Act
Not at all. There are two clear groups of factors to take into account if you want to make the changes stick and produce outstanding results quickly, efficiently and permanently: the 'internal', and the 'external'. And there's a sensitive balance to strike when you consider which to pay attention to at any given time.
'Internal' factors include people's mindsets, and 'groupthink', together with the attitudes, values, perceptions, feelings and beliefs that dictate how people think individually and in groups. Most importantly, these 'internal' factors colour how people react to change in the world about them, including the organisation they work in.
'External' refers to what the organisation needs to change. These are the concrete, tangible structures, processes and systems that are needed in an organisation of any size to make it work effectively. Examples include organisation structures, salary schemes, IT systems, and business processes.
In my experience, one of two things happens when most leaders think about developing their organisation. The first is that the instinctive reaction is to focus on the 'external' factors - after all, these are generally tangible and concrete and capable of development using the skills many leaders have in abundance: planning, directing, implementing and analysing. Making visible efforts at change also demonstrates to their managers that 'real' change is happening. So we see over and over again new leaders, filled with the excitement of their new appointment, restructuring their team; or firing somebody and hiring in a person they knew in their previous job; or scrapping a system that has been used more or less effectively for some time, and installing the very latest thing they have read about.
The second thing that happens is that a leader recognises that his or her organisation is adequately equipped for the moment with the 'external' factors, and that the focus needs to move to bringing the hearts and minds of the people along with the changes. But they try to work on these 'internal' factors using the skills they know to work on the 'external' factors: information, analysis and presentation. Or they find the whole area too difficult and fraught with the possibility of disagreement or conflict, and retire quickly and with relief to restructuring and reengineering!
'Internal' and 'external' factors need to be focused on equally over time. If you as a leader do not attend to both 'internal' and 'external' factors and manage them with equal rigour, your change efforts will fail. To produce effective change in your organisation - that is, to produce enhanced results through the changes you introduce, requires that you develop your awareness and skill equally in both areas.
However perfect for your organisation's current and future needs the process you design and install seems to be, if it fails to get buy in, or even alienates people, the change will fail to deliver. Better to ensure that you take the people with you who will make the changes work and deliver their intended results in the long run than to lose the passion, inspiration and commitment in your team and your business!
Tips for Making Change Stick
- Consciously design your projects, announcements and events to emphasise the integration of 'external' and 'internal' - separating these is common practice and a common reason for the failure of business transformation. For example, include in your Six Sigma workshops, restructuring announcements or SAP training an opportunity for people to express their concerns and fears. Include in your vision and strategy communication to your staff the opportunity for them to play with the ideas and to contribute their own version of how they would like to contribute to the effort. Consider running separate events for key teams to consider the consequences of new initiatives in their own work area.
- Listen. When listening to people's opinions, concerns and complaints resist the temptation to argue, persuade, reassure and generally provide solutions that come from your mindset and your view of the world. People's concerns and opinions only turn into resistance if they are not heard and respected. You'll be surprised at how quickly people's mindsets can shift.
- Role model what you want others to be and do. As a leader you are the best source of learning and adaptation to change in your organisation.
- Keep your word! Don't make promises, especially early in the change process, that you're not sure you can keep. Once trust is gone, it's very hard indeed to rebuild.
- Repeat the key change messages as often, and in as many ways, as possible. Tell as many people as you can what the key changes are, the intention behind them, and the reasons for them. If they complain they don't know what's going on, it's down to you!
- Recognise, celebrate and market internally any successes, especially early on. Let everyone know about great results and recognise those who made them happen.
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