How to make changes stick

In this article, I’d like to take one step forward and focus on how to make sure the changes stick after projects are completed.

Here’s the thing. When change initiatives end successfully, organisations have an incredible opportunity to learn from what went well and adapt their way of working/thinking/behaving across the whole organization.

In reality, this doesn’t happen most of the time. In fact, organisations, despite the success of the change initiative, go back to their “old” norms and behaviors, so they treat the change project as an ad-hoc and standalone project.

There is a good reason for that.

Organisations have their own culture and don’t like to change it unless leaders realise the company culture is not a fit anymore to improve performance.

In fact, culture change is a top-down initiative. Without clear direction, full commitment, and involvement from the leaders, cultures don’t change. Full stop.

However, executing successful change initiatives gives a terrific opportunity to organisations to see things from a different perspective and embrace new ways of work for the future.

Let’s bring an example.

Imagine you’re running a change initiative to explore a new market by providing a new set of services or products. A sort of pilot test for now.

During uncertainties, this happens quite often.

If you follow the right steps, you have:

·Built a new vision and new objectives for the project.

·Anticipated internal resistance

·Communicated internally the new project vision and why that matters

·Built a cross-functional team to lead, build the strategy and manage the initiative

As the project goes on, the team decides to build a new set of values, norms, rules to work together. It’s what I call “the rules of the game”. They decide how they will communicate, what they won’t tolerate, how they will fight resistance, what risks and challenges they will experience during the journey, how they will deal with issues and conflicts, etc.

Not just that. As they start dealing with a new market with a new offering, they also realise they have to change other things to adapt to external forces. For example:

·The new market doesn’t like organisations with an old-fashioned approach

·The new type of clients requires a different mindset

·The message to the market should be different than what they used in the past

·Their offerings must bring innovative solutions

·Etc. etc.

In other words, the team is setting a new way of thinking and acting, internally but also towards the market.

Imagine that worked. They got some great results. The test is now validated.

But…imagine they have disrupted old norms and behaviors. They now realise the new culture they built for the team shall be embraced by the whole organisation. Leaders like that. Why? Because there is proof now that a new culture works.

Visionaries leaders see these opportunities all the time and maybe don’t need validation from projects. But sometimes, when you are stuck, tangible results from change initiatives can really help leaders to make strategic decisions like changing the company culture.

In this short example, I hope you realise it’s possible to drive changes from anywhere in the organisation. However, it’s always up to the leaders to embrace the changes and make sure these changes stick across the organisation for the long term.

Changes drive culture. Culture drives changes. This is how you evolve and improve as an organisation.

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