"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."-Martin Luther King
"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The Leader adjusts the sails." -John C. Maxwell
How many of us have instituted a change in our area, or been a part of a change, and seen it go right back to the way it was within a week or a month? My guess, almost all of us. The key for us as leaders is to include follow-up in our project planning. Change is difficult on us and our staff as it almost always requires us to do more work and provides for a fair amount of discomfort. So plan for the passion to subside, for roadblocks to come up, for other things to distract us. Making whatever we are changing routine should be the goal and requires a bit of effort following the go-live.
So how can we make it easy on ourselves and our team to stay the course? I offer three suggestions to help navigate the turbulent waters of change:
A metric to track – First and foremost, tie the change to some sort of metric. Whether it be usage, performance improvement, or any other of a number of ways. The reason for this, is to display it PUBLICLY! See, half of the problem is that change is much more difficult than just doing things the way you have always done them, and when it gets difficult or stressful your staff will have a very natural tendency to “sneak” back and do it the way they are familiar with. Public tracking of metrics keeps everybody focused on staying the course.
Easy milestone – Everybody will be looking for ways the change is failing, so set out to reach a milestone within a short timeframe, I usually use 2 weeks. It puts a short term goal up on the board for everyone to focus on. The trick is to make it relatively easy to meet. I’m not talking about softening your performance goals, I’m talking about being realistic that you will build on the change over time (rarely are changes a “magic bullet” that immediately yields results). This creates the first success that will quiet some nerves and which can be built upon as you raise the bar on successive milestones.
Get feedback, but not TOO early – We need feedback on the change, but be careful of soliciting while people are still struggling to create habits from the change. Generally right after the first milestone is met is a good time to open the feedback door. At this point the discussion is more easily focused on how to improve and get more out of the change, as opposed to a focus on whether the change should have been made in the first place (which is often where the discussion goes when asking for feedback a day after implementation).
If you plan these three steps into your change management you’ll find the road easier after the initial implementation for both you and your staff.