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Making change stick

The best intended change plans can miss some key elements that make the change stick. To land the change initiative successfully, we need to create an environment where the people receiving the change, often called change receivers, feel empowered to continually improve their business. These end users need to feel comfortable integrating new approaches in their day-to-day practice.

Your change plan is an opportunity to highlight the factors that help shift and sustain new approaches, to support the benefits realisation. Your proposed change activity that will support and embed the new ways can be identified in your handover plan.

Let’s explore how you can make an impact or make recommendations in your change plan to shift mindsets and behaviours - aka the culture!

Making it stick

To make change stick, consider these four elements that address individual, team and organisational levels:

1. Model what you want others to think, act and do

2. Recruit the right people

3. Reward the right mindset and behaviours

4. Embed and reinforce what you want to see repeated and embedded

1. Model it

We know from studies on our primal human behaviour that how we act is observed, absorbed and easily mimicked by others, making it critical that the desired behaviours are modelled.

This sounds straightforward, yet, too often, leaders miss this simple way of influencing others and get it wrong.

The ‘do as I say, not what I do’ approach is too prevalent.

Leaders need to be aware of the subtle messages they may be sending. These types of status signals communicate arrogance, demotivate teams and can sabotage efforts for behaviour change. We are probably all guilty of doing things we are not particularly proud of, consciously or unconsciously, as part of our learning.

As change practitioners, we too are always modelling behaviours - consciously and unconsciously - and the people around us will copy us at a subconscious level. The ripple effect of how we act has a significant impact on what others will do.

2. Recruit the right people

When successful change relies on shifts in mindset and behaviours, recruitment needs to focus on the right fit to support the new culture.

This is supported by a clear definition of the desired behaviours so an appropriate search process and set of interview questions are established to attract and find the right talent that supports new ways for thinking and working.

Experience and skills alone do not guarantee the candidates have the mindset and behaviours you want. Recruit for WILL as well as skill.

3. Reward it

We often seen organisations invest a great deal of time and money developing new ‘corporate values’. Cascading from those values, is a statement of the behaviours they want to cultivate. How successful is this approach? Did the behaviours change? Did the change stick?

Too often, the simple element of rewarding the new demonstrated behaviours is overlooked. One very simple element was overlooked. The behaviours also need to be clearly defined, with examples where possible, so they are easily understood. Examples could range from exemplary behaviours to the less desired ones to showcase the contrast of what is good and what is not so good.

These definitions are then integrated in the organisation’s reward and performance program, and appear in employee performance scorecards and capability statements as desired behaviours. Once they land in the performance program, you can reward what you want to see.

4. Embed and reinforce it

The last element to address is to see the desired behaviours repeated and embedded, so they become ‘the way we do things around here’.

Embedding the change to ensure it becomes part of the organisational DNA calls for some planning in itself.

Repeatedly remind your people what you like to see in your organisation, using a few different approaches to get the message across:

  • Make the examples of great behaviour public through stories that appear on the corporate intranet and Enterprise Social Networks

  • Encourage people to nominate team members who they see doing the right thing, with a reward system in place for the nominees

  • Set up a Kudos Board for your own team, for other team members to post notes on who they’ve seen demonstrate exemplary behaviour and what they did. How cool is it to see your own name in a public place when you least expect it?

Embedding the right stuff is a result of repeatedly modelling it, recruiting it and rewarding it.

Embrace the opportunity to make a difference. Make sure you change plan includes recommendations based on these four elements to shift mindsets and behaviours!


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