Implementation Insights Blog

Implementation Management Associates help organizations around the world achieve large-scale, complex change. This blog discusses our insights into organizational change.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Getting Buy-In for Business Change Projects

If you are dealing with a business change project that requires people to adjust their beliefs as well as actions, you’ll need to generate commitment to the change. You can’t hit people over the head and make them do what you want them to do. And just because your Sponsors express their personal commitment to the change does not mean that your Targets will follow. You’ll only be successful if you take people through the commitment building process, aggressively using communication and reinforcement to motivate people to leave where they are (the current state) and move to where you want them to be (the future state.)

When you need to win hearts and minds in order for your business change to be successful, you need to manage the 3-stage process of “unfreezing” the behaviors of the current state, transitioning, and “refreezing” the behaviors of the future, desired state. This type of change takes longer, and requires more resources.

While there can be other motivators to change from the present way of doing things, the most powerful are pain and need. If it’s easier, and more comfortable, to continue to do things in the same way, you can anticipate that this is exactly what people will do. So the first critical task is to make certain that the personal motivation to change must be greater than the motivation to stay the same.

Once people begin to move out of the past, there is a predictable period of time known as the transition state. This is a time of high uncertainty, and as Change Agents and leaders, you have to provide your Targets with structure and support so that they can move through the transition to the desired state. Otherwise, you can expect that people will slip back into the old ways.

We’ve all witnessed this. We get through the “installation” of a new system, or a new process, only to find that within a short period of time people retreat back to the old way of doing things. Our change stalls out, or worse, fades away.

What to do? How do you counter the predictable and inevitable downturn in productivity and morale?

This is the point in time where you will really see the benefit of skilled Change Agents and educated Sponsors who can impact the depth and duration of the “valley of despair” of the transition. A well-managed transition can minimize the pain and actually accelerate the change through to adoption and behavior change.

Here is where your investment in educating your Sponsors can really pay off. Sponsors who are able to express, model, and reinforce their commitment and who understand the importance of Frame of Reference can bring Targets through the transition period more quickly and with many fewer “human casualties.”

It’s a time for ensuring there is an abundance of two-way communication so that sources of resistance can be identified and managed. It’s a time for diligently monitoring your change, and making continuous adjustments as situations change.

You can’t ignore the transition state, but when it’s planned and managed correctly, it’s a time of great learning.

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