You’ve been asked to make a change to one of your team’s or company’s processes. There is plenty you need to know to be able to make changes.

Though I have de-cluttered much of that for you– [Type “change” into the search box to read other Nuggets about making change]–this Nugget is about how to make change that sticks. It’s about how to prevent change from slipping back into the old bad habits, the old ways.

Before you can make change you must identify a process and have a reason, of course. But most change-makers assume that, since everyone is supposed to be working to the same goals of achieving maximum results for the company, any change will be welcomed, implemented, and will take hold for the longterm. Not so.

Most employees work to do what is asked of them and little more than that. Those workers will feel uncomfortable making changes and will have a tough time adapting to change. Change requires that they step outside of their comfort zones. Because of that fact alone, to make change that sticks, you must have a very good reason for disrupting or inconveniencing workers who are asked to make the change and there’d better be a great payoff or benefit for making change.

You’d better have a GREAT reason and need to make change.

Change benefits should be significant, relevant, and substantial.

Here’s an action list to making changes that stick:

  1. Justification. Why make the change? The stronger the data, the better. A solid, indisputable analysis of error rates or history that is relevant should be a component of this justification.
  2. Consequences to process. What happens to the process, objectives, if the change is not made?
  3. Consequences to people. What happens to the people employed in and around the process if the change is not made. This is not to threaten them. Rather, it is to provide a straight line projection into the future. Straight-lining into the future provides “no-brainer” arguments which are obvious to most people, even those who don’t care to spend much time reflecting on them. My best example of a straight-line argument comes from my anti-aging section of my website: eating the American diet guarantees an early death, and plenty of diseases at young ages. To live healthy to age 89, people have to change their diet. Here are some work examples. All competitors are changing to provide 24-hour deliveries. We have to work a third shift to keep up. Competition is automating, etc.
  4. WIIFM. Be clear on the WIIFM factor, (What’s in it for me, meaning, the employee). What happens if the process is successfully implemented? How does the employee benefit? What happens to specific employees who do not adopt the change?
  5. Learning environment. Provide a constructive, well-paced, comfortable learning environment during which the new skills and new knowledge is taught.
  6. Practice. Ensure there is plenty of practice time, hands-on time, to make mistakes offline.
  7. Reward. Provide a reward program to support the change. Contests may be fine, but a likely more welcomed reward is that which is spread across and can go to each participant whenever he or she successfully implements the change. A points program may accomplish that? This is not to say that you should restrict your imagination to only a points accumulation program. There are plenty of other motivational and support programs to consider.
  8. Rewards proportional.  If the change is important, the value and significance of rewards should reflect that. One of my early employers provided substantial financial recognition rewards for great cost saving ideas that resulted in process improvements. At another employer, the President walked into offices to shake the hands of those compliant to change that helped the company achieve its objectives. BOTH methods were highly rewarding. There are many other ways to say “this is important”. Be creative.
  9. Recognition. Recognize the change adopters. Let others know the employees who are “catching on” and who are beginning to hit “home runs” with the new process. The counterpoint to publicizing program compliance is the potential embarrassment cause to non-compliers who are implicated by their absence on scoreboards or who are notably absent from whatever publicity tool is being used. On the other hand, in MY OPINION, management should remove rather than invest in workers demonstrating resistance and entitlement rather than compliance.
  10. Scorecard. A scorecard is absolutely essential to the change process. Not only for controlling error rates, but also to “encourage” greater compliance to the new process.
  11. Genealogy. Once the process has become habit, and the bugs worked out, move it into the culture of the team or company. [Click here to read: ]  Make it part of the team or corporate genetics.