Sustainable Change: A Guide to Making Change Stick!

Posted by Don Harrison on Wed, Mar 06, 2019 @ 12:23 PM

I think we can probably all agree the rate of change has increased exponentially over the past few years. Every organization I know (whether it be in business or in healthcare) is working at the speed of light striving to get a competitive advantage, improve their market share, make their operations efficient all while increasing their shareholders’ returns. In order to make all these things happen simultaneously, Senior leaders are attempting multiple complex, large-scale changes at a somewhat alarming rate. No wonder the level of stress across organizations is so high! Making Business Changes Stick

While at the surface, there is a high degree of activity focused around implementing these strategic changes, the fact of the matter is most of the initiatives will fail to be sustained. Yes, the change may be up and running at the cut over date (what I call Installed), but if you take a closer look, behaviors have not changed, or more typically the new behaviors are adopted but only for a short time. In the end, things go back to how they were before.

Is it because the strategies aren’t right? Is it a problem with technological integrity? Does the organization lack the capacity to innovate? Is it because the new processes really aren’t best practice?

Simply put, most organizations just don’t apply the same amount of rigor to managing the human elements of change as they do the technical side of a project. And contrary to popular belief, the greatest risk for failure is actually on the human side of the equation.

Installation vs Implementation

In order to ensure a change will be sustained, it’s important to recognize the difference between Installation and Implementation. Installation of a change meets 3 measures:

  • It’s on time
  • It’s on budget
  • It meets the technical objectives

These are the measures of success being managed by project management. It’s easy to understand why getting to Installation promotes a sense of accomplishment. You have gotten to “go live” or cut over and, thus, some results have been accomplished. But if you measure a project’s success by Installation, you are not yet getting to sustained behavior change and therefore, true Return on Investment. It’s just change at the surface level.

In order to have a successful Implementation there are 2 additional factors that must be met:

  • The business objectives
  • The human objectives

The human objectives of a change are what people will be doing differently as a result of the change in the future state. To increase the likelihood of sustained change, organizations need to change from an Installation mentality to an Implementation mindset in which they are managing the human objectives of a change.


Change Management is the Answer

The AIM Change Management Methodology addresses this significant organizational need—not as a silver bullet and not as a theoretical approach, but as a structured process that is laid on top of the project management structure and plans. It is project management for the people side of implementation, with deliverables, tools and measurement assessments that enable the organization to apply process where there has been none.

Here are just a few of the principles from AIM that will help you mitigate the risks on the people side of your change.

  • Define the Change in Terms of Human Behavior – If the end goal is to get to adoption and sustained behavior change, then the starting point needs to be a clear and compelling change definition that includes identification of the human behavioral changes in the future state.
  • Generate a Cascade of Committed Sponsors - When you have Sponsors at each level of the organization who are expressing, modeling and reinforcing their commitment to the business change, you will get acceleration.
  • Reinforcements Need to be Changed - Reinforcement is the power lever to motivate behavioral changes. If you don’t change the Reinforcement, you won’t get sustained change. Period.
  • Don’t Let Resistance Win Out - Resistance to change is natural and inevitable. You can't ignore it, or it will go underground and really slow you down. Instead, you need to find its sources, and apply tactics to manage it.

Leaders who are content with getting to go live or “Installation” often gain a false sense of satisfaction that change has occurred and therefore, financial return has been achieved. But while getting to successful Installation is certainly a "must do," the truth of the matter is there is no change unless there is sustained behavior change. Employing a structured approach to change management (such as AIM) that ensures the people side of your project is managed with the same rigor and discipline as the technical side is how you can ensure your change will stick.

Free eBook:  Mini Guide to Installation vs Implementation

Topics: Change Management Methodology, Installation vs. Implementation, Project Management, Change Management Consulting