One of the challenges facing our change management consulting clients is the level of change fatigue across the organization. There is simply no rest from the constant barrage of changes that disrupt past habits, patterns and ways of working. It creates an unprecedented level of organization stress, especially when there are fewer resources than ever before. The change fatigue is further compounded when those Change Agents responsible for implementation confront a history of projects that are initiated, but not successfully implemented.
What’s the result? You guessed it: employees are taught to expect the “program du jour” or “change flavor of the month.” This, in turn, creates a culture of skepticism when it comes to belief in the organization’s commitment to real change.
So when the next project that is intended to drive speed and innovation launches, people are bound to ask, “Why would this time be any different?” It’s what Don Harrison, IMA President, calls the kidney stone theory of change—this too will pass.
No Change Occurs in Isolation
One of the core elements of the AIM change management methodology is to Assess the Climate for the change you are trying to introduce. Your project isn't being introduced into a hermetically-sealed environment. Instead, you are implementing your change into an environment that is being significantly shaped by perceptions of past experiences, and what is going on in the present. It’s why we say, “No change occurs in isolation. It occurs in the context of all those priorities competing for resources (stress) and all the lessons previously learned about implementation (history).”
While this is somewhat common sense, many times Change Agents and Sponsors make these mistakes:
- Saying “this time will be different”
- Believing "this time will be different,” but not doing anything differently
- Thinking this implementation is the only project going on in the organization
- Having a much more positive perception of the organization’s history than the Targets of the change do
In order to avoid these mis-steps, conducting a statistical analysis of the level of stress as well as the perception of past history can be extremely beneficial. Using measurement diagnostics helps to:
- Estimate the degree of difficulty you will face in implementing your current initiative
- Determine the level of resources necessary to overcome systemic weaknesses
- Predict the points of resistance and enable strategies to manage it
- Measure progress over time for overcoming cultural barriers
- Communicate more effectively with Sponsors who respond best to data
Measuring Past History
One of the biggest change management gaps we see is when an organization does not take the perceptions of its past implementation history into account when planning for the future. Failed implementations that still live on can often be a source of resistance for the current change. Leaders’ awareness of these perceptions of past implementations is critical to building credibility for the future. In addition, they help Sponsors and Change Agents see where there are opportunities for acceleration.
Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Yet managers typically will use the same strategies in the future that they have used in the past, unless a conscious effort is made to understand the patterns and impacts of past implementation practices.
AIM’s Implementation History Assessment measures these perceptions of past patterns of implementation results. The data output is used to determine new strategies for overcoming identified barriers to implementation and leverage points for acceleration.
Measuring Organizational Stress
We all know that the level of change in both the corporate and healthcare worlds is unprecedented. But sometimes when you are so focused on your own change project, you can overlook how many other changes your Targets and Sponsors are dealing with simultaneously. What’s more, your senior leaders may fail to appreciate that the impact of a change on them can be very different from the impacts being felt further down the organization.
So when organizations commit to another change of any size or scope, leaders need to have their eyes open to what the levels of disruption will be for everyone else. It’s not just a question of leadership sensitivity; when there is too much going on, with too few resources available, trust in leadership erodes. Trust is not a warm and fuzzy issue; low trust organizations can’t implement at speed, ultimately impacting competitive advantage and business results.
AIM’s Organization Change Stress Test provides a context for understanding the current levels of organizational stress, and the climate in which changes will occur. The results can be used to determine the timing and sequencing for implementations.
When you have a better understanding of perceptions of your past history and your organization’s current stress level, you will be much better positioned to identify the right tactics and strategies to overcome barriers to change, and how to achieve value realization for investments being made. You can run an Implementation History or Stress Test in your own organization. Contact us to learn how.