Step 5: Enabling Action
Empower broad based action
Now it’s time to executive the plan and empower people to make the change happen. This may mean removing barriers or obstacles to change or that undermine change efforts.
Many times, these are the most difficult barriers to get past because they are part of the internal structure of the company. Realigning incentives and performance appraisals to reflect the change vision can have a profound effect on the ability to accomplish the change vision.
Another barrier to effective change can be troublesome supervisors. Often these managers have dozens of interrelated habits that add up to a style of management that inhibits change. They may not actively undermine the effort, but they are simply not “wired” to go along with what the change requires. Often enthusiastic change agents refuse to confront these people. While that approach can work in the early stages of a change initiative, by Step 5 it becomes a real problem. Easy solutions to this problem don’t exist. Sometimes managers will concoct elaborate strategies or attempt manipulation to deal with these people. If done skilfully this only slows the process and, if exposed, looks terrible – sleazy, cruel and unfair – and undermines the entire effort. Typically, the best solution is honest dialogue and if required difficult conversations and even performance management.
Enabling action may also involve discussion and agreed around responsibilities and accountabilities and some training for employees, managers, supervisors, team leaders to understand empowerment. Education allows for the actual empowerment instead of just telling people “you are now empowered”. People need to be encouraged to take risks, be innovative and change their paradigms.
- Supervisors who do not help employees to identify and overcome true obstacles
- Supervisors failing to adapt to new circumstances, undermining change and disempowering their employees
- Structure, systems and processes that are at odds with the change vision
Step 6: Quick Wins
Short term gains are essential to a successful change effort. Quick wins (sometimes called low hanging fruit) are relatively straightforward and easily achieved and are typically those that can be implemented within 6-8 months. Getting these quick wins maintains energy levels, creates excitement and reinforces the benefits of the effort required to change. If you achieve some short terms wins and continue to build on them your transformation is more likely to be successful.
Realising these improvements is a challenge. In any change initiative, agendas get delayed, decisions can be slow to be made, there is a desire to ensure that customers are not affected, political forces are at work – all of which slow the ability to perform as promised. However, short-term wins are essential.
To ensure success, quick wins must be both visible and unambiguous. The wins must also be clearly related to the change effort; this will mean you need to communicate effectively to ensure people understand the connection. These wins also serve to reward the change agents by providing positive feedback that boosts morale and motivation. The wins also serve the practical purpose of helping to fine tune the vision and the strategies. The guiding coalition gets important information that allows them to course-correct.
- Without quick wins the critics and negative thinkers may hurt your progress
- Failure to create short-term targets – not just one long-term goal
- Failing to celebrate success and reward and recognise the quick wins and the people involved in positive change and improvement
Step 7: Don’t let up
Resistance is always waiting in the wings to re-assert itself. Even if you are successful in the early stages, you may just drive resistors underground where they wait for an opportunity to emerge when you least expect it. They may celebrate with you and then suggest taking a break to savour the victory. You’re making progress and realisation of the vision is getting closer, but quick wins are just the beginning. Often, change efforts fail because people stop driving deeper change too soon – so it’s essential to keep supporting people to make more and larger changes that will stick. Whenever you let up before the job is done, critical momentum can be lost and regression back to the old ways may occur.
- Talk about progress every chance you get. Relate improvements back to the vision and change efforts so people can make the connection
- Tell success stories about the change process, and repeat other stories that you hear
- Include the change ideals and values when recruiting and selecting new staff or promoting other staff
- Publicly recognise key members of your original change coalition, and make sure the rest of the staff – new and old – remembers their contributions
- Create plans to replace key leaders of change as they move on. This will help ensure that their legacy is not lost or forgotten.
“Paralyse resistance with persistence” - Woody Hayes
Step 8: Make it stick
Finally, to make any change stick, it should become part of the core of your organisation; the “way we do business here”. Your corporate culture often determines what gets done, so the values behind your vision must show in day-to-day work.
Make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of your organisation. This will help give that change a solid place in your organisation's culture.
It's also important that your company's leaders continue to support the change. This includes existing staff and new leaders who are brought in. If you lose the support of these people, you might end up back where you started.
The change process is not as linear as the steps may suggest; you need to continue to create urgency, engage and revitalise your guiding coalition, revise your strategy, and ensure actions are being completed and celebrated: Consider these points carefully:
- Cultural change comes last, not first
- You must be able to prove that the new way is superior to the old
- The success must be visible and well communicated
- You will lose some people in the process
- You must reinforce new norms and values with incentives and rewards – including promotions
- Reinforce the culture with every new employee
What you need to do
- Add more projects
- Update policies, procedures and work instructions to capture the “this is the way we now do it”
- Educate and communicate!
- Bring additional people in to help with the changes
- Have senior leadership focus on giving clarity to an aligned vision and shared purpose
- Empower employees at all levels to lead projects
- Reduce interdependencies between areas
- Increase cross functional collaboration (decreases silos)
- Maintain constant effort to keep urgency high
- Consistently show proof that the new way is working and that it’s better than the old way
Cultural change can take 3 to 10 years, and until it is complete, new approaches are fragile and subject to regression.
Therefore, don’t declare victory too quickly. Don’t go overboard with enthusiasm when you see progress. Resisters can be quick to spot an opportunity to undermine the effort. Change can come to a halt and previous, irrelevant, traditions can creep back in.