The most successful method to ensure that change ‘sticks’ in your organization is the ‘burn the bridge’ concept, or eliminate previous methods and processes. However as I mentioned previously this is only a part of the equation to maintaining the change of course because people will always tend to move back to their areas of comfort. This is where the stamina and dynamic personality traits come into play. This is where the stamina, and a healthy dose of patience, is required to push through the challenges to maintaining the change. This continuing, or more appropriately post change implementation, maintenance and support is the key to success.
You must always remember that you are creating new habits, customs, methods and procedures and this requires a continuous review and reinforcement program. Institutional change requires regular reinforcement for two reasons, the first and most critical initial reason is that you must reinforce and even continue to reinforce the change procedures, the second and most critical long term reason is the implementation and maintenance of a continuous improvement program. Each of these reasons and reinforcement is critical to the success of your change initiative and you will also find that each of these reasons will come into play simultaneously. However the level of focus will transition as the change initiative becomes institutionalized from more heavily weighted towards reinforcement of procedures initially to the continuous and on-going improvements of the procedures.
In order to ensure the likelihood of success of your change initiative, you should think of the initiative as an iceberg. What I mean by this is that the effort to define and implement the change is the part of the iceberg visible above water and the maintenance and on-going support, or continuous improvement, of the change is the majority of effort that is under water and invisible. I like this analogy because it also conveys the sense of importance and level of effort related to the on-going maintenance and support of your institutional change. Each of these activities and focus of effort are equally important, the initial focus of reinforcement and training is critical to give the change initiative the opportunity to deliver the planned initial value and improvements, the on-going continuous improvement procedures and practice are critical to ensure the continued success and value of the change.
Make no mistake, though, if you short change the effort and focus to support the change going forward your change initiative will wither and die. This on-going maintenance of the change is absolutely critical to the success and also to the reputation and acceptance of the leadership. It is much worse to allow the change initiative to die a slow and quiet death than to fail in the initial implementation. The slow and quiet death delivers and reinforces a message that the senior leadership and the fire starters and ineffective and their strategy failed. This message allows and encourages the organization to lose trust and confidence in the value and judgement of the leadership. The worst case scenario in this slow failure is the failure and demise of the organization.
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?