The most difficult aspect to maintaining a change initiative fighting the hidden hurdles to the change. These hidden hurdles come in two flavors; one is the comfort people within the organization developed towards the legacy behavior and the second is the tendency of any organization to move to a state of lethargy. In other words, you must fight against the tendency of people to both not want to change and also the tendency for people to just stop maintaining the initiative, or entropy. Both of these tendencies can and will cause your change initiative to fail.
Let me take these two aspects one at a time and in the order you will encounter them. The first aspect then is to overcome the tendency of people within the organization to fight change. To put this in another way people and organizations are comfortable with the status quo and they must be ‘encouraged’ to change, either by making the current environment so uncomfortable that the animosity towards change is less work than maintaining the status quo, or by the actions and encouragement of a fire starter to guide people within the organization to the change. I suggest that this aspect is the least difficult to overcome because you have an open activity that your actions and plans can address, This is what I refer to in my previous discussion as the tip of the iceberg. The reason why I say this is because these challenges are visible and these challenges are also most probably the least of your worries.
The second aspect, I firmly believe, is the more difficult to overcome. This aspect is the tendency towards entropy. This aspect can be the result of two reactions to the change; the first is the push back or the tendency for people fight change. The second can be the result of two reactions that be manifested separately or combined; one reaction is the tendency of an organization or people towards entropy through lack of maintenance, the second reaction is the unspoken fight, or passive aggressive type behavior people have to change. I refer to this aspect as the iceberg that is below the surface because this represents the greatest threat to the success of any change initiative. This is the aspect that you must spend both the greatest amount of time to counter, and this will also represent the longest duration aspect of your change initiative. I believe that you will be surprised at how easily people will fall back into their old habits and cause the change to fail. You must be vigilant against this aspect for longer than you may anticipate.
There used to be a commercial for Fram Oil Filters with the tagline ‘pay me now or pay me later’ and the point was that your cost would be much less to perform regular and continuous maintenance. I recommend the same attention be paid to maintaining your change initiative. Your costs will be much lower and your success rate will be much higher.
And now for the audience participation portion of the show…
Have your started or are you in the midst of an institutional change initiative? What are the key traits you have identified as required to support the initiative? Have you contemplated the name or phrase for the person leading your initiative?