How to Sustain Commitment to Change

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

How to Sustain Commitment to Change

This short paper lists the critical factors in keeping the change alive.

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by Rick Maurer

Keeping energy high during a major change can be challenging. It is all too common for people to be excited about a new initiative, only to see that interest wane over the coming months.

There are no easy answers or quick-fix solutions. However, the following need to be in place if you want to get an organization to make from planning through implementation to results.

  • Leadership. Although I am not a fan of reengineering in the way it is commonly implemented, one idea from Hammer and Champy makes good sense. They suggest that you need a czar to lead the change. This person is given the authority and resources to make this change a reality. This person needs to have clout in the organization. He or she need not be a senior manger, but must be an influential player.
  • Clear Contract. The czar needs a clear contract with leaders. He or she needs to know what leaders will do when the unexpected happens, what support he or she can expect from them throughout the life of the project. The czar needs to say, “I will lead this change if certain conditions are met.” The czar should delineate what he or she thinks it will take to be successful.
  • Beware of “scope creep.” Many projects move beyond their original scope. Like bills before Congress, these initiatives get weighed down by all types of extraneous or somewhat-related projects. Unless the situation changes dramatically, stick to the original plan. And, if you need to deviate from the original plan, do it consciously. Reexamine resources, assignments to the project, and so forth. Plan for the unexpected today. Determine what you will do if the scope begins to change or if conditions change.
  • Speed. Determine how fast you can move on this and still get the level of commitment you need. Sometimes, perfectly fine changes die simply because the organization moved too slowly. Everyone does not have to be trained. All systems don’t have to be in place. Find ways to get to Implementation.
  • Ownership. Make certain that there is sufficient ownership for this new initiative. Ask yourself, do enough people support this initiative for it to make it from Initial Actions through to Integration? If the answer is no, you need to spend more time getting people up to Recognition on the Cycle of Change, and getting support for Initial Actions.
  • Resources. Are adequate resources committed to ensuring implementation? Resources might include sufficient budget, time for training and other meetings. A critical resource is time and attention. Can the leaders of this change dedicate sufficient time to make it work? If this is a major change and you ask people to work on it along with all the other tasks they’ve been doing, you can expect to fail.
  • Rewards. Will people be rewarded for this work? Will people get credit for this work? In other words, will this be considered a major objective on their performance plans? Will opportunities for good assignments and promotions be available to the people who work on this or will this project be a corporate Siberia?

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