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  • Writer's picturejohn pryor

How to Use Your Time to Make Change Stick

“Time is on my side, yes it is” - Rolling Stones

Imagine this scenario. You rolled out a big change for your organization. It has been a few months since the project closed, and you are beginning to wonder, “What happened to the Change?” Your team put in months of work bringing new processes, technology and / or behaviors to your organization. The project was approved and funded by the Project Management Office with sign off from Executive row. You built a great team and they blew it out of the water. You hit resource targets, budget and deadlines, and your team shone bright. You launched on time, you saw initial project results, and began project close out. Your team slowly moved on to other pressing initiatives.

Three months later the old ways and tools are creeping back in, process shortcuts are quietly instituted, and behaviors have not really budged.

Over the last few months, Time has not been on your side. And if you do nothing as an organization, then you lose. You lose the return on the funding provided for the project, you lose credibility with your staff, and you lose the time that everyone put into that project. That is expensive.

It is important to consider that a project introduces change to an organization; making the change stick requires more time. If you find your change is in a post-launch slump, you will need to spend some time understanding the current situation and how to get back on track. Here are seven very likely causes and some remedies to help make your change stick.

1. The vision for change went dark. Leaders stopped describing the future state and stopped explaining why and how to get there. Portions of the organization got lost along the way.

What to do about it: Sponsors, managers and change agents need to get back to explaining future state. Turn on the lights so your organization can find its way!

2. Sponsors went on to something else and stopped talking about and driving consequences in support of the change. Simple as that. It is easy in a world of frequent change to use our time to focus on the new thing, but at the risk of the old change not being fully adopted.

What to do about it: Sponsors need to sponsor. They need to communicate the change and continue to drive consequences until the change is adopted in the organization.

3. Your measurement system stopped at project launch and did not actively extend to full adoption. Maybe the scorecard still exists, but no one is looking at it anymore.

What to do about it: Bring the scorecard back. Review it publicly and use it to make decisions going forward. This reinforces that the change matters, provides content for sponsors to discuss the change and reminds staff that people are interested, and watching.

4. Education stopped after the pre-launch training. Maybe the training is listed as a refresher course on an annual basis, but that isn’t helping in the near term. Some employees need iteration and / or a different medium for learning.

What to do about it: Use the time you have now to offer additional, less formal and easy to access training. Consider using drop-in sessions and brown bag sessions to offer more opportunities to learn about the change.

5. After the project, motivational elements disappeared. The swag, the reinforcement, the pats on the back stopped with Go-Live.

What to do about it: It does not have to be fancy, just take the time out to recognize those who adopt the change and note and inquire with those who do not. Leaders need to make it clear that they notice and recognize employees who have taken steps to adopt the change.

6. The end users were ignored. After Go-Live, end-users were no longer asked for input or feedback about the change.

What to do about it: Talk to people and get their input. If their suggestions will take time to implement, tell them that. Always let them know that they are involved and their input matters.

7. People just stopped talking about it. It happens — there are newer things to discuss.

What to do about it: Leaders, managers and change agents need to spend time talking about the change. Communicate the results, or lack of results and how the organization needs to continue to adopt the change. Don’t stop until you have reached the future state.

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.“ - Charles Buxton

None of this is hard to do. Making Change Stick takes some of your time and attention after the project ends. Do not become another statistic of failed change. Think about how you can use your time to make change stick.

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