We all know change is hard for both organizations and people. But despite all the logical assessment, process improvement mapping, and employee buy-in, why is it still hard to make change stick?
Some change efforts are quite successful, many never gain much traction and some fail spectacularly. A lot of research has been conducted about why this is so and the conclusions are as varied as the approaches used to attempt change. One of the most logical arguments, confirmed by interviews with staff from organizations that have undergone change efforts, is that employees never really believed in the change. Most understood the rational arguments for change. Most accepted, even if it was not in their best interest, the inevitability of change. And many supported, at least nominally, the agent of change, often the chief executive.
What is often missing is the fundamental belief, a gut feeling, that this change can and must succeed. This feeling is borne out of bad experiences with change efforts that never bore fruit and a comfort with the status quo, no matter how ineffective it might seem. What is missing is often the confidence that comes from experience with successful change. If the organization has not experienced effective change then the way to create this confidence is through small productive forward steps. It is an approach promoted by Robert Schaffer and others in which, after a brief diagnostic phase to confirm direction, the consultant facilitates change efforts to produce quick wins. These small steps, involving as many staff as practicable, creates an understanding of change, visible results and the confidence needed to take on broader and more complex change tasks. Tip:
Even in an organization whose change effort requires substantial and careful planning, a series of preliminary change activities can create a more favorable change environment and culture. It will also reveal those individuals most able and committed to the larger change efforts. Finally, it provides the quick wins to show the entire organization's stakeholders that change, done right, can be both comfortable and productive.© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA