Organizational Change Can Be Successful
Well you’ve made it to the eighth and final step in Kotter’s change process. Your change is now in place, but how likely is it to stay in place for the long term? Tradition is a powerful force, where leaps into the future can easily revert back to the past (Kotter & Cohen, 2002, p. 159). In this final step we’ll look at ways to ensure your change becomes fully integrated into the daily operations of your organization.
Step 8 – Make change stick
In order to make change “stick”, we need to take the new behaviors resulting from the change and incorporate them into the overall organizational culture. Without this happening, your change is sure to rollback. Consider the case of John Harris, an advertising executive, who worked hard to change his organization by eliminating two full levels of hierarchy. This allowed his organization to react quickly, avoiding the back and forth of communications that moved between levels (Kotter, 2002, p. 160). All was going great until John was transferred to the organization’s headquarters in Switzerland. Harris was slated to be there for five years, however after just three years away from his former division they were slumping. Ordered to return two years early, Harris found two additional levels of hierarchy had been added back into the organizational structure. To make matters worse, headcount had exploded as new VPs need administrative admins and managers to manage who in turn needed employees to manage. Clearly, the lean and nimble organization Harris built had not become part of the culture so that when he departed long-term change could not be sustained.
Here are some tips that can help ensure you are able to make your change stick:
Achieve tangible result as quickly as possible
Similar in nature to how short-term wins were used in step six, it is important to demonstrate to the entire company how the change is providing benefits to the organization.
Show how the change is working
People tend to be skeptical by nature so it’s important that they can witness the connection between the change and improved performance. Publically communicate how their new behaviors are contributing to the success of the change. Equally important is to show how past behaviors no longer support the vision of the change and the direction of the organization.
Measure and support sustained performance
Measurement – an often forgotten process in most organizations – is critical to ensure your change has lasting impact. The organization must be able to demonstrate, through measurable results, that the new change is having the expected impact.
Demonstrate leadership and support of the new model
Members of the organization are not likely to continue with the change if they do not see ongoing support for the change from organizational leaders. As leadership changes, new leaders filling those vacancies must clearly understand their responsibility to the change to ensure long-lasting change.
Initiate necessary turnover
Not all changes is easy and unfortunately, not all employees will be able to make the change. Organizations should support those struggling with change through training or new positions in the organization. However, for those unable to change after these measures, they should be provided with outplacement assistance while looking for other employment. As we end this eight part series on organizational change, I’m reminded of this particular section in the first article on Kotter’s first step – increasing urgency:
Perhaps noted author, professor, and management consultant Peter Drucker said it best “But unless it [change] is seen as the task of the organization to lead change, then the organization will not survive”. Without a commit to change, at all levels in the organization, the change effort and the organization cannot survive.
Although the vision of change may start with an organizational leader, the responsibility of change is owned by each and every employee. Without that level of commitment, lasting change cannot endure.
Cohen, D. (2005). The heart of change field guide. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Drucker, P., & Maciariello, J. (2004). The daily Drucker: 366 days of insight and motivation for getting the right things done. New York: HarperBusiness.
Kotter, J., & Cohen, D. (2002). The heart of change: Real-life stories of how people change their organizations. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.