Jul 252011

Change: Ensuring that Change “Sticks”

Change: By Claire on July 22, 2011 in Organizational Change Management

My first foray into the world of change training happened about 12 years ago. The World Health Organization (WHO) wanted to capitalize on the informal learning environment that had developed around their in-house systems. As in so many organizations, application “gurus” had sprung up in various departments, and were called on to help other users solve practical problems on the fly. WHO, with the help of a learning consultant, launched the IT Coaching Network to leverage this knowledge across all of Headquarters.

On the face of it, this program should have been a success. WHO had invested in a well-defined, well-prepared change project plan. They had a top-notch consultant who developed and drove the change project. They had recruited a group of optimistic, talented people who were invested in making the program a success. And they had buy-in from management, who had permitted their staff to use 10% of their hours to participate in the project.

But in less than a year, the program had become entirely obsolete.

So what happened?

  1. No ongoing plan for support. WHO invested a great deal of time and money to develop and prepare staff to participate in the Coaching Network. But once they implemented the program, they never revisited it to find out what was working or what improvements could be made. Once their consultant left, no one took over the project management.
  2. The change fell off the radar. Corporate buy-in waned as the IT Coaching Network was forgotten. Users were unaware of its existence, and the IT Help Desk continued to field calls as usual, without identifying frequently asked questions that might warrant a short coaching session, or individual callers that might have benefitted from individual coaching.
  3. The Network devolved from an integrated team to an incohesive group. Ah, the mysterious art of team-building! As our little network progressed through training, we found commonalities. We liked and supported each other. And, we truly wanted to do good work. This was an opportunity lost for WHO; a great team can achieve great things. Without a leader we eventually lost contact with each other and the network crumbled.

Lessons learned:

  1. Change is never over. After implementing a change in your organization, review progress periodically, especially during the first year. Ensure that change has been adopted. Check for cultural shifts that may affect the change. Keep management and staff on the same page. Address any problems and concerns that will undoubtedly arise during implementation.
  2. Include a communication plan in your implementation. Creating awareness is a first step in driving change. Also, consider how you might increase likelihood of change by tweaking processes and systems. For example, the IT Coaching Network might have better utilized had there been a well-communicated telephone number where they could be reached, apart from the Help Desk. Alternatively, Help Desk employees might have considered the Coaching Network more often when interacting with their customers if their problem management system had included the question “Would this user benefit from coaching?”
  3. Great teams start with good leaders. Provide opportunities to come together as a group, but also allows each team member to do what they do best. Provide leadership, but allow your team to have a voice. And finally, develop your vision for the direction of the team, and then drive toward the goal.


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