Implementing Sticky Change

Implementing successful personal or organisational change is challenging. The number of New Year’s resolutions that don’t make it to February, is an example of personal change that, despite the very best intentions, is notoriously difficult to implement.

Unfortunately, without the right support and guidance, implementing successful organisational transformational change can often have the same poor success rate as personal change, except any failure is amplified, either officially or unofficially, to a range of stakeholders in the organisation.

Change isn’t just about adopting new practices; it's about navigating the sea of human emotions, uncertainties, and complexities that come with it. I’ve experienced a range of change initiatives in a variety of different sectors first-hand. Successful change involves careful consideration, planning and communication of the new organisational structures or technology to be implemented. However, just as importantly, the impact the change initiative will have on the people involved should be a key focus. 

Using a change model as a roadmap to steer those overseeing change implementation is an important step towards success.

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model, the McKinsey 7-S Framework or the ADKAR Model all provide good strategic direction, but my favourite is Knoster, Villa and Thousand’s Simplistic Change Framework.

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

This model, developed by John Kotter, empowers organisations to tackle organisational change by mobilising employees to rapidly adopt and implement new processes, technology and other organisational changes, following eight steps:

  • Create urgency – identify the threats and opportunities of the proposed change process and present compelling reasons for the change to staff
  • Form a power coalition – create a team of effective change leaders
  • Create a vision for change – define an easily understood vision and strategy for the change process
  • Communicate the vision – ensure all involved are informed
  • Remove obstacles – constantly check for barriers
  • Create short-term wins - create many short-term achievable targets instead of one long-term goal
  • Consolidate gains - analyse the success stories and build on them
  • Anchor the change in the corporate culture – ensure support from senior leaders and make the change visible

McKinsey 7-S Framework

This framework, developed in the late 1970s by former McKinsey & Co consultants, Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman, is still relevant today. The framework includes seven interrelated factors that influence an organisation's ability to change:

  • Structure - the way in which a company is organised
  • Strategy - a well-formulated plan of action
  • Systems - the business and technical infrastructure of the company
  • Shared values - the core values of the organisation
  • Style - the prevalent management style
  • Staff - the size of the existing workforce, their motivations and current training model
  • Skills - the current capabilities and competencies of the staff

ADKAR Model

The Prosci ADKAR® Model was developed by the founder of Prosci - Jeff Hiatt. The word ‘ADKAR’ is an acronym for the five outcomes an individual needs to achieve for a change to be successful:

  • Awareness – of the need for change
  • Desire – to participate and support the change
  • Knowledge – on how to change
  • Ability – to implement the desired skills and behaviours
  • Reinforcement – to sustain the change

Knoster, Villa and Thousand’s Simplistic Change Framework

This framework works on the basis that there are five different elements that all need to be present for success when navigating a complex change or challenge.

This framework is a useful and practical lens to place over any change initiative.

I favour this model over others due to the simplistic components and, importantly, an outline of the likely outcome should any of the five components be left out:

1  Vision

A clearly communicated vision of the change process is essential. The key questions of “what are we doing?”, “why are we doing it?” and importantly, “why are we doing it now?” are essential to this component of the change model. Leaders must remember that while they have been thinking about this change process for weeks or months, they should not expect staff to be ‘on board’ and completely understand what is in the leader’s head after a one-off presentation.

2  Skills

People can feel anxious about the proposed change, which is normal human behaviour. People may very well understand the purpose but may feel they don’t have the skills to do what is required. What staff require upskilling and how this will be implemented is a critical component of any change process.

3  Incentives

Change creates discomfort. You will understand that people often prefer to stay with the current situation, regardless of the issues that creates, rather than move to a new system or process. What incentives (not necessarily financial) are going to be put in place to motivate staff to embrace the change?

4  Resources

How can time and space for the change for learning and skill development be created? What will be the financial as well as the human cost of the change process?

5  Action Plan

What is going to happen and when? Who is driving the change? Are roles clear? There must be constant checking in of progress – where are the success stories? How are these acknowledged and celebrated? Where are the blocks? How will these be mitigated?

Focusing on the five components of the framework and ensuring they guide the change process leads to successful transformational change adoption. I use these tools constantly, internally and for clients.

It is important to note, that because of the number of unsuccessful organisational change attempts, many people are both cynical and wary of proposed change initiatives. ‘Here we go again’ mindsets abound, making change management challenging for leaders. Understanding the human side of change transformation is as crucial as the technical aspects.

My knowledge, skills and experience in guiding teams and organisations through this intricate journey ensures I provide not just strategies for successful transformative change adoption, but a practical understanding of the challenges that will emerge during the process.

Authored by Paul Dolan, one of our Change specialists.

If you would like some help with implementing change, contact Nicky on 03 943 2373 or info@odi.org.nz.

Thoroughly enjoyed this session and have noted things I do when my battery is diminishing.

I learned that it's OK to take a step back and reset and not keep pushing on. Sometimes I need to put myself first to keep maintaining a full battery level.

This was a good session. I have come out of it positive and optimistic and ready to focus more on my (and others') wellbeing and use some of the suggestions to improve my resilience in the workplace.