4 Disciplines For Long-Term Sustainability Of Change

Learn about 4 measures leaders can employ to generate and sustain momentum in any change initiative to ensure long-term sustainability in their change effort.

The following is a guest piece by R. Kendall Lyman and Tony C. Daloisio.

Years ago, we each had a chance individually, to take a hot air balloon ride. Kendall’s adventure was fun and exhilarating. But for Tony, his ride was terrifying because of his fear of heights and small places. The thought of being thousands of feet in the air in a small basket was petrifying. After comparing our two experiences, we realized how similar our adventures were to how change affects employees.

Some employees are excited about the idea of change; others are terrified. Some find the ride exhilarating, while others find it paralyzing. Some people will jump right in the basket and look forward to the journey and the destination. Others will have to be slowly coaxed into the basket and constantly reminded about why they are there in the first place and where they are going.

Achieving meaningful change takes significant strategy and effort, and an investment in time. It requires generating enough lift to enable the change to float while avoiding things that create drag. And what we’ve learned over the last twenty-five years of implementing change projects is that the work doesn’t end when you’ve reached your goal.

Rather, leaders must continue to work at change, reinforcing the progress made to ensure its sustainability.

To generate lift and sustain change, engage in the following disciplines which are designed to ensure your success.

1.Validate Project Readiness
Complete an all-systems check to determine which areas or stakeholders need more focus. This helps identify anything critical that may have been missed and will prevent dragging down the project. This also serves to ensure involvement and commitment at every level.

We like to use our Baker’s Dozen of Project Readiness questions. Once all boxes are checked, you’ll know you’re ready for lift off:

1. Is there a compelling case for change that is well understood?
2. Are plans and expectations clear? Do employees know what behaviors and actions are required of them?
3. Are measures of success in place and ready to be monitored on a consistent, timely basis?
4. Were key stakeholders involved in creating the solution? Has resistance been dealt with openly?
5. Is the leadership spine aligned and strong?
6. Are leaders modeling the change?
7. Are processes, structure, and systems aligned to support the change?
8. Has the culture been enabled to support the change?
9. Has the right training been provided to meet new capability requirements of employees?
10. Have employees been engaged in meaningful discussions about the change?
11. Does the change team continue to meet on a frequent basis? Are members following through on assignments?
12. Are quick wins being celebrated to create momentum for the change among the employee population?
13. Is there a process in place to review the effectiveness of the project implementation and to learn from both successes and failures?

2. Hand Off the Project to the Business
Ideally the business has been involved in the process all along, but sometimes a small, designated team handles the change while the business continues to run. So this step ensures that the business operating team is ready to take ownership of the change and continue implementing the plan.

To help make the handoff successful, first reconnect with the vision established in the beginning. Then revise rollout plans according to any business or schedule fluctuations and transition responsibilities. Establish business measures and track progress, highlighting barriers and plans to overcome them.

3. Create a Discipline of Accountability
Employees will need to be held responsible for upholding change, so set them up for success by creating a dashboard of lead and lag measurements to track progress. Schedule weekly reviews to discuss results and lessons learned. Encourage feedback and provide any coaching or support needed.

Assigning ownership and institutionalizing cultural behaviors will establish accountability as the norm. And while this has a huge impact on changing the fabric of an organization and sustaining goals, we’ve found that this is often the hardest part of the overall change process.

Author Lee Colan suggests managing timelines versus deadlines as one approach to accountability. Placing emphasis on the when and how work is accomplished rather than just on the end result keeps all parties informed throughout the process and allows for workflow adjustments.

4. Establish Learning and Renewal
It may seem like a luxury to capture learning and celebrate successes, but it’s as critical to long-term success as any substantial accomplishment might be. High-performing businesses take the time to drive achievements deeper through learning and renewal.

Assess what works and what doesn’t through benchmark visits, customer research, scanning the environment and other areas of business, and personnel rotations. Listen to employees’ stories and conduct all-company reviews, pilots, tours, and reports. Share findings and future actions needed to create a learning and renewal culture, which will continually ignite sparks of passion for change.

Sustaining change is hard work. Keeping your change balloon in the air is a tough proposition sometimes. You may get a good liftoff, but then unexpected resistance drags you down. Author Liane Cordes said: “Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential.” It’s the same with sustainability—continually monitoring lift and drag will ensure success of your change initiative now and in the future.

R. Kendall Lyman and Tony Daloisio are authors of “Change the Way You Change: 5 Roles of Leaders Who Accelerate Business Performance”. Lyman is a founding principal of The Highlands Group. Daloisio is founder and CEO of Charter Oak Consulting and a principal of The Highlands Group. Please visit www.ChangeTheWayYouChange.com for more information.

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