Change management discussions often lead to discussions about leadership, transitions, and change readiness without delving into steps to take after successful change implementation. While driving successful change initiatives is essential for businesses, ensuring such change is sustainable is equally important. Thus, the importance of change management tracking and reinforcement cannot be understated. It’s through these steps that change leaders and organizations can ensure change is successful and sustainable.
Change Management Tracking
Tracking and monitoring implementation is an essential part of the change management process. However, many companies focus on financial performance measures while paying little attention to other important indicators. In an age where knowledge-based assets such as information technology and employees reign supreme, it’s essential to consider them when tracking performance. Kaplan and Norton tackled this problem via the “balance scorecard” which looks at both financial and non-financial performance indicators and provides change managers with the information they need to track progress and plan accordingly. It consists of the following measures:
Financial measures consist of economic measures such as sales growth, return on investment, and cash flow generation. These measures focus on how the company must appear to shareholders in order to successfully achieve its vision.
Customer-centric measures include customer satisfaction, acquisition, retention, market share, and more. They may also include factors that affect customer loyalty, such as innovation and on-time delivery. These measures focus on how an organization must appear to customers to achieve its vision.
Internal Business Measures
Factors like response time, quality, and cost directly affect the organization’s ability to deliver on its promises to shareholders and customers and are another critical consideration.
Learning and Innovation
Learning and innovation depend on three main sources: organizational procedures, systems, and people. According to Kaplan and Norton, the other measures (customer, financial, and business measures) reveal the gap between existing capabilities of organizational procedures, systems, and people, and the capabilities needed to fulfill the organization’s vision. It’s up to change managers to address these gaps and improve innovation and learning so the organization can flourish.
It’s important to note that while customer retention and satisfaction are important indicators for measuring the long-term effects and validity of the change, these aren’t available in the short term. Thus, organizations must focus on other more immediate methods of tracking change management, including determining whether change is being implemented as intended, employee feedback and whether the immediate outcomes are those that were expected. Since employee resistance is one of the main barriers to change management success, it’s essential to consider employee feedback.
Change Management Reinforcement
While creating a readiness for change and implementing change are important steps of the change management process, it’s also critical for change leaders to ensure this change is reinforced so long as it’s beneficial to the organization. The importance of change management tracking and reinforcement is made evident when one considers that even if change initiatives are successful, they may not always last. According to one study, employers felt that change management initiatives met their initial objectives 55% of the time, but this did not translate to long-term gains, with only 25% of gains being sustained.
Strong leadership and minimizing resistance are crucial for creating sustained change. Yet, it’s not simply acting early that ensures long-term change management success. Organizations must also reinforce change management to ensure it sticks. Many companies undermine their own efforts by failing to reinforce them and paying little attention once initial objectives are met. Instead of celebrating too early, change managers must use their early wins to keep the momentum of transformation ongoing.
Additionally, they must address problems faced by individuals affected by the change. One of the biggest problems associated with change management is companies and change leaders overly focus on technical aspects and not enough on people issues. Engaging and involving those affected by the change plays a significant role in breaking down resistance as well as embedding change in a company’s values. The following are some of the ways organizations can promote change sustainability and focus on change management reinforcement:
One of the most important ways to reinforce change is by providing detailed feedback and showing individuals how change implementation is making a difference. Because individuals are provided with information on their contribution, they cannot overlook it. Additionally, detailed and personalized feedback aids in not during the transition period, but also afterward with sustained change. Change managers must work closely with day-to-day management to implement adequate feedback mechanisms to ensure optimal management.
Encourage Employee Feedback
In addition to managerial feedback, organizations must also take employee feedback into account. Two-way communication is essential since employee feedback helps organizations correct and revise their change strategies and post-implementation activities.
Manage Timing and Pace
Change managers must note that when change initiatives are rushed, individuals may feel less involved and may become fatigued. A more relaxed pace may help individuals understand the need for change and become accustomed to the idea without being thrown into the deep end. Yet, this must be balanced since too much delay may undermine individuals’ commitment to the change.
Manage Change Perception
The perception of the change is a key factor in determining whether or not it will be successful. Change managers should keep track of key stakeholders to see whether they view the change positively or negatively and can seek to influence their perception. Change leaders can also frame change initiatives positively by focusing on the benefits the change will result in, including organizational and personal benefits. Furthermore, creating a compelling vision and using past change as examples of success can be determining factors in sculpting the perception of change initiatives. Keeping drivers of change at the forefront of employees’ minds also helps shape perception and reinforces change.
Reviewing change effectiveness is also central to reinforcing change. This includes reviewing outcomes, progress, activities, and lessons learned to increase effectiveness and reinforce change behavior in new and improved ways. According to Prosci, this includes evaluating employee performance, project performance, feedback metrics, and readiness assessments.
Retain Change Agents and Employees
Buchanan et al. discovered that one of the many problems associated with sustaining change was those initiating change moving to other organizations. Organizations can encourage sustained change by retaining these employees, motivating and rewarding key change agents, providing career development opportunities, or choosing successors with similar goals. Additionally, organizations can take steps to minimize turnover to retain employees, and offer opportunities for induction and training, including to existing employees and recruits.
Provide Clarity and Create Accountability
When clear guidelines aren’t established, accountability can become diffused. As such, change leaders should ensure clear guidelines, responsibilities, and rewards for those participating in and driving change. This is especially important since other priorities can divert attention and resources if goals are not made clear.
Summary and Conclusion
While implementing change initiatives is challenging, it’s much more difficult to ensure longevity and sustainability when doing so. Because of this, it’s essential to not only focus on implementing change but doing so while keeping the importance of change management tracking and reinforcement in mind. Sustainable change management is much more effective when reinforcement is considered from the start of the process instead of being an afterthought.
In addition to tracking progress, organizations can optimize change initiatives through reinforcement methods like implementing two-way feedback, reviewing effectiveness, retaining change agents, managing change perception, and more. In doing so, organizations can ensure their change implementation efforts don’t go to waste and they succeed in the long run.