Creating Sustainable Change
by Duncan Brodie
Nothing stands still in business for very long. Change is happening all of the time, sometimes on a very small scale. From time to time, it becomes necessary to deal with a much bigger issue. It could be loss of market share due to technological change. On the other hand it might be a loss of confidence due to an adverse event or loss of a key leader. It might simply be changing customer expectations.
Faced with major challenges, the common response is to engage consultants, start cost cutting, look to re-engineer process to name just a few. While all of these may be necessary, they alone rarely result in sustainable change. By sustainable change I am referring to change that stands the test of time. Research suggests that as few as 3 out of every 10 change programs fail to maintain momentum beyond the initial period.
In my experience, sustainable change requires much more than just cost reduction and process change. In the vast majority of organisations, people are a major component in providing the product or service. Some may never have experienced or had to respond to major change. A good example of that in the UK is public service reform. Hospitals, universities, schools, government departments are just a few of the areas where there is huge expectation around reform. While all of the people who work in these organisations, are hugely committed and often real experts in their own field, some may have spent their entire career in one type of organisation and maybe in one discipline. The focus of their continued professional development has been on technical excellence. Some might have had basic training in management and leadership but few will have had exposure to commercial business practices.
So how can organisations going through change increase the chances of making the change sustainable?
1. Find people in the organisation who are committed and motivated by making change
2. Take the time and make the investment to provide the skills, knowledge and insights to those part of the change program
3. Free people up so that the change program becomes their focal point for a period of time. Major change is not something that can be done in the lunch hour
4. Decide what basics must be achieved while the change is in progress. In reality there may need to be some short term sacrifices to get longer term benefits
5. Get support to the change program internally and externally
Change is tough and creating sustainable change is even more challenging. While all of the process changes and cost reductions are necessary, equipping people with the skills, know how and support is vital.
Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements Ltd (G&A) works with professionals and progressive public and private sector organisations who want to develop their management and leadership capability in order to achieve more success. Sign up for his free e-course and monthly newsletter at http://www.goalsandachievements.co.uk