Change Leadership Challenge 3: Embedding Change

This is the third in a series of posts about change leadership. Previous posts covered active, committed leadership and building a compelling business case.

Embed your change in to the fabric of your organization. Image: Johntrathome on flickr.

Embed your change in to the fabric of your organization. Image: Johntrathome on flickr.

Everyone has a story about a flavor-of-the-month management fad that was abandoned before completion. Going through fire drills for some business trend the CEO read in an airline magazine is frustrating and draining for employees. Unfortunately, employees have enough negative experiences with aborted initiatives to be cautious when leaders hype a new change.

To avoid the flavor-of-the-month syndrome, your crystal-clear message has to underlie all communications, and you have to work on the third factor in change leadership: focus on embedded change, not programmatic change. Here’s how to do it.

Create Goals Linked to the Success of Your Initiative

Start by making sure that the change supports one of the company’s strategic imperatives. If it doesn’t, go back and confirm priorities and commitment with the executive team before your launch.

Identify High-Level Goals for Each Business Unit

From there, continue setting goals until every affected division and department has at least one strategic goal associated with the initiative.

Tie the Initiative to Individual Employees’ Work

Set individual performance goals tied to the initiative. Establish clear objectives on performance reviews that explain what employees need to do to help their departments achieve success. For example, as part of a continuous improvement strategy, employees may work to “integrate the new project management processes and procedures into all work by the end of the year” or “participate in the billing redesign working group as a department subject matter expert.”

Once you’ve established individual, departmental, and divisional goals, don’t forget about them. Too often, goals become part of a musty document that only gets dusted off at the end of Q4. Best-practice companies report regularly (monthly or quarterly) on progress. Critical milestones can be celebrated in order to sustain momentum and enthusiasm during long-term initiatives.

Quick Check: How Well Are You Embedding Change into the Organization?

Ask yourself the following questions to gauge how well you’re embedding your change initiative into your organization:

  1. Is your change integrated into the work of the organization?
  2. Have you created clear, measurable change goals that are:
    • Reported on frequently?
    • Meaningful to employees?
    • Representative of progress toward the desired end state and results?
    • Tied to group and individual performance?
    • Directly linked to the initiative?

If you answered yes to all questions, you’re ahead of the change curve and you’re setting up your organization for success. If you answered no to any of the above questions, it’s time to revisit your communication and change plans.

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