Secrets of a Successful Change Implementation

Every transformation leaks value at various stages of the implementation process: some prioritized initiatives are never done, others are implemented but don’t achieve bottom-line impact, and still others may fail to sustain their initial good results.

Organizations that excel at implementation foster a leadership style that sets bold aspirations with clear accountability—emphasizing the challenging and supportive dimensions of leadership over the authoritative and consultative qualities that may be effective in other situations. Successful leaders are relentless in pushing and encouraging their reports, while also greasing the wheels through tough decision making.

Keeping this pace of change going represents a significant investment of time and attention. For example, the global head of the transformation program at a big healthcare company ensures that she or a direct report participates in every critical milestone-report meeting. Her presence as an active role model reinforces the transformation’s importance for the company and encourages the involvement of local leadership.

After key personnel have been identified and properly involved, the second step in implementing change is to develop a plan for effective transformation. The plan should help to define the responsibilities of the key people involved while also laying out short-term and long-term objectives for the changes. Because change can be unpredictable, the plan should also be flexible enough to accommodate new occurrences.

The third step in implementing change is to support the plan; this means that management follows through on the plan it created. Key to this step is enabling employees to adapt to the change. Employees may need training, reward systems may need to be adapted, or hiring may be required. If the organization does not provide the support necessary for the plan to take effect, it is unlikely to succeed.

The final step in successful change implementation should occur throughout the change process. Communicating with employees about what is occurring, why the changes are being made, and how they will develop is critical. Because change can create a lot of fear, increased communication can be used to calm employees and encourage their continued support. In addition to downward communication, managers should pay attention to any upward communication that occurs. They should be available to take suggestions or answer questions that employees might have. Creating opportunities for employee feedback, such as holding meetings or having an open-door management policy, may facilitate change more successfully.

One of AIM’s core principles is that there is no behavior change unless you change the reinforcements. A best practice Implementation Plan must include a Reinforcement Strategy that aligns reinforcement mechanisms with the new performance expectations.

In today’s business world, it is more important than ever for an organization to extract maxium value from the initiatives and projects it elects to implement. It just makes sense to plan for the human side in the same way you plan for the technical side of your projects.

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