Insights

Making Change Stick

No matter how big or small the change initiative that you’ve just implemented, the real proof of your success will be the degree to which the new way of working sticks.  And as exact as we try to be with whatever model of change we apply, the reality is that change management is not a perfect science.  With this in mind, how can we create the opportunity for higher levels of change success and embedding of new behaviours?

Summarised below are four principles of change that can support the sustainability of your change initiative.  These can either be treated as the lens through which you view your change model, or applied in parallel with your change initiative.  

1. Leadership Alignment
The most successful change initiatives are ‘led’ with intent. This is because the leaders involved with the change (either directly or indirectly) acknowledge the potency that comes with their leadership role and understand that what they say and do as an individual and a group is being watched.  There is a genuine leadership value held and acknowledged by the group around what they need to be doing to support and embed the change. One of the most common derailers of change can be traced back to how aligned the leadership group were around the change.  The key question here is; does the leadership group have a goal or vision for how they need to ‘be’ throughout the change process, and is there an agreed way of operating? Another key factor to consider is whether there is an awareness of the parental influence held by the leadership group.  When this awareness doesn’t exist, we see inhibiting games played out; just like children like playing one parent off the other, our people will play one manager off another if it means that it will help delay the inevitable!

2. Exposure
The heart and soul of any change initiative is the fact that we are expanding the frame of reference of those affected by the change. When we think of change, we typically think of the steps involved with whatever model we are applying – the skeletal system of the change.  Important; but perhaps not as important as the central nervous system that coordinates everything else in helping us get from Point A to Point B.  

When we get the fact that we are providing our people with a chance to expand their frame of reference, and that their frame of reference is constructed of their belief and values system, then we start to really understand the importance of even the smallest changes.  In fact this is what could be considered the central nervous system of your change initiative.

3. Save Face
In conjunction with the above point, what’s absolutely important to keep top of mind is that you cannot force an attitude or behaviour to change.  Remember that many people define themselves by what they do, and if you have people who have been successful, based on how they’ve performed a task over a long period of time, then the ability to help them move from Point A to Point B whilst saving face will be vital.  

You can do this by:

  • Creating an air of permission and safety to do things differently.
  • Providing positive conditional reinforcement when you see small shifts in behaviour.
  • Maintaining an unconditional leadership position.  This means that you encourage experimenting with new behaviours and tolerate a degree of failure without punishment. 

4. Benefits
The last point is related to the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor.  As with any change, unless we know (or at least perceive), that there is a gain to be had from changing our behaviour then we are probably less likely to change at all – or at least willingly!  A few things to keep in mind when thinking about how to pitch the benefits include:

  • Any benefits must be seen as relevant to their job.  If not, credibility of the benefit and the change initiative will be immediately questioned.
  • Some people are concrete thinkers and may not perceive the benefits as easily as others.  In other words, they will believe it when they see it.  For these people, find ways to pitch the possible benefits in such a way that they are believable, for example; bring someone in from a department or company where the change has been implemented and allow full and frank exploration and discussion.  For these people, probably more than others, your actions in the Leadership Alignment and Exposure stages will also be critical.
  • You as a leader and a leadership group need to ‘believe the benefits of the change before you see it’ so you can paint a picture of the future that others can buy into.  

The last word…

This is really about bringing your change initiative back to the human element.  If we do this, then change and its stickability, doesn’t seem quite as daunting.  The greatest variable in change isn’t the change process you adopt.  The greatest variable is the people you want to bring on the journey…and the best part is that when we strip back the layers we are all made of the same stuff, and develop and grow as humans in the same way.  So consider your people the way you’d like to be considered, and perhaps your change will stick a little better than it has before! 

Ponte Valle Insight: Making Change Stick

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