Change is difficult. We all know that, right? For many of us, reluctance to change is as ingrained as breathing. Even things that could improve our lives, and that of all humanity, are initially looked at dubiously. When the telephone was introduced, it was considered “almost supernatural.” At that time, hearing voices when nobody was physically present was the hallmark of insanity. And few people understood how electricity could convey a human voice. The Providence Press said, “It is difficult to really resist the notion that the powers of darkness are not in league with it.”
One of the many problems with attempting to introduce a change in organizations is that leaders and managers fail to learn from past mistakes, using a dated playbook that dooms them to failure from the beginning. Shelves of books have been devoted to overcoming the challenges of change, so we’re not suggesting we can solve the problem with five hundred words and a cartoon, but we have seen enough successful efforts to know what does work. Here are three things you can do to tilt the axis of momentum to your side the next time you roll out a new initiative.
- Communicate the why
Consulting firm McKinsey has reported that
“Most companies underestimate the importance of communicating the ‘why’ of a transformation; too often they assume that a letter from the CEO and a corporate slide pack will secure organizational engagement. But it’s not enough to say, ‘we aren’t making our budget plan,’ or ‘we must be more competitive.’ Engagement with employees and managers needs to have a context, a vision, and a call to action that will resonate with each person individually. This kind of personalization is what motivates a workforce.”
Long quote; enough said, tell people why you’re changing. i
- Focus on the first ninety days
Research indicates that more than 75 percent of people maintain a goal for a week but then they gradually slip back into old behavior. However, almost all of the people who maintain a new behavior for three months make the change permanent; the probability of relapse after that period is modest. ii The same applies to organizations — to make change stick you have to ingrain it into the culture, and that cultural nurturing is most critical during the first three months. It may require additional resourcing to ensure the initiative is always top of mind, but that is ultimately a small price to pay for embedding a new way of operating into the fabric of your organization
- Celebrate small wins
And the smaller the victory, the better, because it represents a chance to motivate yourself and others. iii It can be anything: achieving a task, holding an important meeting, solving a challenging problem. By focusing not just on the big milestone achievements, but also the day-to-day wins, you’ll have more victories to celebrate, which equates to more opportunities to reinforce the change and sustain momentum. One other piece of related advice: Have fun with your celebrations. Publicly recognize people, and use a scorecard that shows just how many things you’ve accomplished.
As difficult as change can be to embrace, it’s essential to staying ahead of the competition in today’s marketplace where standing still means being passed by upstarts and rivals you didn’t even see coming in your rearview mirror. Don’t get left behind!