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If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times:  "I don't care if [co-worker/subordinate/colleague] doesn't like me - I'm not here to make friends.  I'm here to make money."

While it's true that you don't have to be - and probably shouldn't be - best friends with the people you manage in the workplace, the reality is that it's hard to make a lot of money if everyone you work with thinks you're a jerk.  Take a look at the most successful people you know, and you'll see that 95% of the time, those people are experts at building positive professional relationships.

Why are good relationships so important?  For some roles, good relationships have obvious benefits:  Salespeople, for example, do best when they are adept at building positive, long-term relationships with almost everyone they encounter.  They'll sell more when they develop strong relationships with their clients; they'll get better access to those clients when they develop friendly relationships with their clients' gatekeepers (such as receptionists, assistants, etc.); and they'll have better success at keeping those clients when they build good relationships with the people responsible for post-sale customer service within their own organization.

But cohesive relationships deliver benefits to people in non-sales roles, as well - and in all kinds of ways.  Good relationships mean:

  • Your initiatives are more readily championed by people outside your department
  • Your particular area of expertise is accorded more respect within the organization (this is particularly valuable for roles in areas like HR or marketing, which are often not taken seriously by counterparts in the purchasing or finance departments)
  • Your subordinates are more willing to go the extra mile to support your initiatives or goals
  • You're more likely to get promoted because you're perceived as a 'team player' who can build consensus - and get things done

...all of which contribute to your stated goal of 'making more money'.

(Yes, there are some independent geniuses who manage to become successful despite having difficulty building positive professional relationships.  But how likely is it that you're the next Steve Jobs?)

So how can you ensure that you're building good relationships in the workplace, without spending your whole day chit-chatting with co-workers?  Just follow some simple guidelines:

Understand how you're being perceived.  I've worked with many people who think they're well-liked by co-workers and subordinates - but who are actually regarded as being aloof or overbearing.  You may think that your refusal to join the team for a Friday lunch makes you look like a hard worker, but the reality may be that it's making you look like you don't like anyone you work with.  Ask a trusted colleague or two for some honest feedback.

See the other side.  The best investment you can make in building relationships is to take the time to see the world from others' point of view.  Before you dismiss an idea or proposal, consider where the idea is coming from.  Is it possible that the person putting forth the proposal is seeing things from a new - and different - perspective?  Taking the time to put yourself in someone else's shoes may yield a fantastic insight or opportunity.  At the very least, it'll make you look like the kind of person who is interested in others - and that's an excellent way to build relationships.

Positive feedback is more effective than negative confrontation.  Almost everyone works better - and harder - when they feel they're being appreciated rather than horsewhipped into compliance.  Criticism doesn't deliver better results, and it doesn't provide the opportunity for the kind of positive interactions that lead to strong relationships.  And a sincere 'thank you' for a job well done will be remembered for longer than you think.

Be generous.  Doing a favor for a colleague today - whether it's spending a little extra time to put together some numbers for a project they're working on, or agreeing to provide a college reference for their son or daughter - may not deliver an ROI in the short term, but are the building blocks of a strong long-term relationship that can deliver tremendous benefits down the line.

Remember, your career is a long-term endeavor, and your professional world is smaller than you think.  Investing in positive relationships is a little like making sure you save a little bit of your salary every month:  it doesn't seem like much on a daily basis, but over time it adds up and makes a huge difference.

In our previous posts on Positive Psychology, we talked about what positive psychology really is, and how it's important when you're thinking about change, and about neuroplasticity and how it affects the way we learn.

Today we're going to look at how this applies to the motivation to change.

motivation to change

Neural pathways by any other name...

All organizations have neural pathways - but we call them 'processes' or 'the way we do things around here'.  As with neural pathways, processes tend to be self-reinforcing.  That may be because they're official and written down, or because they are part of the unwritten, accepted culture - but they're still self-reinforcing.  When they're working well, they become stronger and that can be a good thing for the organization, but they can make it harder to change something which is entrenched within the organization.

Motivation to Change

Dr. Ellen Langer, a noted Positive Psychologist, conducted a study in which she asked study participants if they wanted to change from being rigid, gullible or grim.  She asked each participant if they valued consistency, trusting and seriousness - and those who said yes had the most difficulty changing.  This is because thought I might say I don't want to be so rigid, if I value consistency it will be hard for me to really want to change - my desire to become less rigid is fighting with my desire for consistency.  So I need to learn to distinguish between the positive and negative parts of the characteristic before I can begin to make any changes.  In other words, I need to unbundle rigidity and consistency if I hope to make a substantive change. 

Motivation to change starts with having some feelings about what I want to change.  Studies show that without emotions we cannot act.  Do my feelings, divided by perceived effort, equal at least 1?  If the perceived effort is greater than the emotions I feel and the equation is less than one, I will not act.

In 1965, Dr. Howard Leventhal and associates conducted a study in which researchers tried to get students to get their tetanus shot.  At first there was no reaction.  Then they increased the emotional component:  They showed students pictures of people who hadn't had a tetanus shot and what had happened to them.  Some students were motivated to take action, but most did not.  Then researcheers demonstrated the reduced effort it would take to get the shot - on one flyer they included the location of the clinic, the hours of operation, and even the phone number.  Only then did they get a large response.  By lowering the perceived effort required to get the shot, the researchers finally got students sufficiently motivated to take action.

The second component of motivation to change is recognizing the need to change.  This only happens when we take responsibility for our actions, rather than blaming others.  For example, if the attitude within the workplace is "I couldn't get that done because I didn't have enough lead time and then I didn't have the right tools to get the job done," then it's hard to drive change because no one feels responsible for the process or the outcome.  On the other hand, if the attitude within the organization encourages a more positive approach - "If I need better tools to get the job done, it's my responsibility to request those tools" - then it's easier to recognize the need to change.

The third component of motivation to change is believing change is possible.  Whether I do or don't, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If I have a growth mindset - if I think that we (the organization and I) can grow, change and adapt - then it will happen.  At the same time, if I feel that it's not possible, it won't happen.  A growth mindset can be taught:  Talking about neuroplasticity can help, and fostering a workplace culture that values and encourages growth and development will also make a difference.  But like all organizational neural pathways, these mindsets have to be reinforced.


NEXT:  Part IV - Implications for Organizations

The situation:

A large pharmaceutical organization needed to implement a new selling model across a sales force of approximately 2000 people - without negatively impacting sales volume, even in the short term.

Several disparate sales teams representing different geographical regions were being combined to form one unified sales force.  Because individual sales force identity was very strong - sometimes even stronger than company brand identity - in the field, and the management structure was going to change significantly, this represented a major shift in the way the company handled its sales.

merging teams change management


The sales force was selling a commodity product in a highly competitive industry, which meant that even small changes to territories, processes or structure had historically led to significant drops in sales volume.  Additionally, because the sales force was large and spread across the country, changes could mean months of administrative disarray - which also led to steep declines in revenue.

Since this new selling model would include both territory and field structure changes, the risks were particularly high for this change initiative.


We recommended a 3-part approach:

  • A change communication plan focused on the role of senior management and senior field management
  • A change and transition plan including an indentity merger component, including a contest to come up with a name for the new, unified team
  • A management training plan focused on how field managers could handle the change effectively


  1. The change communication plan employed several different types of feedback loops, which encouraged all team members to participate effectively - which in turn created a positive business climate for the changes, in which junior sales force team members were set good examples by senior leadership
  2. The contest to choose a new name for the unified team drove healthy competition across regions, which fostered maintenance of sales volumes while emphasizing the 'one team' message
  3. The management training plan gave managers the tools to identify and understand where employees were in the change cycle and how to move employees through the process without negatively impacting sales volume

In the end, the majority of the sales force - from senior management to junior salespeople - thought the change was 'no big deal'.  In fact, even though the change represented quite a shift in the way the business managed sales, it was executed in a way that allowed people to move into the new selling environment without missing a beat.

Sales remained constant throughout the realignments, and even increased in some areas.  Sales management reported improved communication and increased morale across the entire sales force.  Sales in the first year following the change remained constant with no decline, and increased by 15% in the following year - which exceeded pre-change expectations.


Last time, we talked about what positive psychology really is, and how it's important when you're thinking about change in large organizations.

Today we're going to look at neuroplasticity.

What is neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity is one of those five-dollar words that actually has a straightforward meaning:  From 'neural' (pertaining to the nerves) and 'plastic' (changeable), it refers to the brain's capacity to change on a physiological level.  In other words, neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to form new neural connections.

It's these new neural connections which allow us to learn, think or do new things.  It's what allows a baby to learn to walk and talk, and what allows a person who's suffered a stroke to relearn to walk and talk.  Neuroplasticity enables us to change habits, to learn new languages, and to learn new information.

Neural pathways are channels in our brain, sort of like roadways.  They're created and sustained through our experiences.  Used often, the roadways stay wide and open; used less often, the roadways become narrow and less easy to traverse.  These neural roadways are created through experience:  A new neural pathway will be narrow, reflecting the beginning of a new experience, while a wider neural pathway indicates a more mature, more-used experience, like a habit or a customary way we consider information.

Neural pathways are self-reinforcing:  The more you use them, the wider and more entrenched they become.  This is good news if we want to continue that pathway without having to think about it too much - but it's bad news if we want to change in some way.

The problem is that some of our neural pathways are negative, like if we're constantly criticizing or finding fault with ourselves or others, or if we're always worrying.  The more we worry, the more we strengthen these negative pathways, and the more difficult it becomes to change those pathways.

On the other hand, a positive neural pathway is where positive habits, like looking on the bright side or making positive choices, come into play.  Luckily, these positive pathways can be equally strong as the negative ones.

What does this mean for change and change management?

Understanding the way our brain creates and sustains these neural pathways helps us to create and sustain change on a personal level.  If we're a 'fault finder' but want to become a 'benefit finder', we need to find a way to shrink the 'fault finder' neural pathways and expand the 'benefit finder' neural pathways - we have to block the negative roadway while widening the positive one.  Just as roadbuilding isn't fast or easy, neither is neural change - it takes time and concerted effort.

This has implications for both the individual and the organization.  Brain lock is signified as a deep-rooted neural pathway.  For individuals, these  pathways can manifest as obsessive-compulsive disorder.  For organizations, these pathways - also known as 'processes' - can be what makes change difficult or impossible.


NEXT:  Part III - Motivation to Change



Most change management initiatives start with needing the answer to a specific business question, like "How do we get ahead of our competitors?" or "How can we reduce costs while increasing productivity?"

These questions can seem straightforward from a business perspective:  Questions about getting ahead of the competition or improving the bottom line appear to be rooted in solid business imperatives and designed to deliver a demonstrable ROI.

However, the truth is that a question like "How do we get ahead of our competitors?" is much broader than it first appears - which means that the answer isn't nearly as simple as you'd think it should be.  After all, your competitors may be doing all kinds of things better than your organization:  Maybe they have better economies of scale, or better patents, lower prices, better customer service, a bigger marketing budget - the list of possibilities is virtually endless.  Suddenly, trying to answer a 'simple' question becomes a whole lot more complex.

But maybe the problem isn't finding the answer, but asking the right question in the first place.

In the late 1980s, British Airways was in trouble.  Recently privatized and struggling to compete with the new Virgin Atlantic Airways, BA needed to rehabilitate its image and win back brand loyalty.  After several years of trying to answer the wrong question - which got them in a lot of legal hot water - they finally changed the question.

Instead of asking themselves "How do we beat Virgin Atlantic?", they asked "How can we give travellers a fantastic flying experience with BA?"

So while Virgin was still talking lower prices and no-frills travel, BA sought to bring back the glamour and romance of flying, injecting more emotion into the experience.  Those of you of a certain age will no doubt remember this famous commercial, which won all kinds of awards at the time:


Service was improved, meals were upgraded, staff were trained to be more entrepreneurial - and soon, customers were less concerned about saving $20 on their flight and more interested in how comfortable that flight would be.

The result?  By 1990, British Airways was one of the most profitable airlines in the world, even as other airlines were struggling to stay afloat.

The lesson?  When you're struggling to come up with the right change strategy, it may be time to reconsider the question that got you thinking about change in the first place.  BONUS TIP:  Questions that may not look particularly ROI-related at the outset may, in fact, be the questions that have the most effect on the bottom line in the end.


Bring up the subject of 'positive psychology' in a roomful of hard-nosed business types and you'll almost always get the same reaction:  A whole lot of rolled eyes and possibly the assumption that you shouldn't have been let into the room in the first place, what with your dangerous hippy notions and all.

But as many of today's most successful businesses - think Google, Apple, Virgin Mobile - have discovered, positive psychology can have a huge impact on the bottom line, especially over the long-term.  In this series, we examine what positive psychology really is, how it affects change, and how businesses can benefit from a better understanding of positive psychology in the workplace.

Why positive psychology?

Today's 24-hour news cycle means that we're being bombarded with 'negative' messages all the time, from global warming and world hunger to slow economies and political dictatorships.  

What we hear less about are the world leaders, business leaders and scientists who are trying - and succeeding - to make a difference even in the face of all this negativity.  And I tend to think that we can learn just as much from these successes as we can from a steady diet of negative stories.

Positive psychology was born out of a desire to stop focusing only on the negative while recognizing that we may have just as much to learn from positivity and success as we do from negativity and failures.

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive psychology is the science of human flourishing.  It was started in response to what psychology had become, at least in the United States:  The study of problems, failures and disease.  Though it has roots in the 1950s, Dr. Martin Seligman is credited with popularizing positive psychology in the late 1990s.

Dr. Seligman began by asking "Why are we only studying problems, instead of also studying what makes people successful?"  What makes people flourish?  What makes them happy?  Instead of asking "what's wrong?", why not ask "what's right?"

What does positive psychology have to do with change?

When we start thinking of positive psychology in terms of how humans are successful, the connection to change (and therefore change management) becomes more obvious.  Change management practitioners spend a lot of time examining why change fails, but you can't be successful by focusing only on what could make you fail.  Positive psychology suggests that a more productive approach might be to examine how and why change is successful - the idea being that positivity begets positivity, which is particularly important within large and changing organizations.


NEXT:  Part II - Neuroplasticity

In Part I of our series on the Employee Perspective on change, we talked about what to do when you find the company's values no longer align with yours as an individual employee.  In Part II, we discuss what happens when you're hired to 'transform' or 'change' an organization - but then discover that no one actually wants those transformations or changes.

Q:  I've been offered what looks like a terrific opportunity to make a real difference:  I'll be heading up a new department and spearheading some major changes.  But I haven't met with the executive team yet and I'm concerned that the company isn't quite as committed to these changes as they say they are.  How can I ensure I don't end up 'spearheading' a spectacular failure?


Ah, the age-old question.  You've just been offered your dream job:  You were recruited from your previous position with promises of a promotion, a great title, and the opportunity to make some exciting changes.  The people with whom you interviewed have told you that the organization is 'desperate for action' and you'll be given 'a free hand' to 'transform' the company.  It sounds fantastic.

But so far, you've only interviewed with the HR department and a handful of senior leaders, and the word on the street is that the executive team has been talking about making changes for years but have never managed to take decisive action.

Here's how to determine whether the position on offer is all it's cracked up to be - and whether you'll actually be in a position to successfully spearhead the changes they've told you they need:

  1. Listen for 'red flag' statements:  When you hear terms like 'newly-created role' and 'catalyst for change' during the recruiting and interviewing process, you can be fairly certain you're about to dive into uncharted territory.  This could be a great opportunity - or it could mean that not everyone in the organization is supportive of (or even knows about) this new role and its stated mandate.  It's a cue to probe deeper to find out if there's been a stated corporate mandate for specific change, whether it's been clearly articulated as part of a recent organization-wide business initiative, and who's been involved in creating this new role.
  2. Look for gaps between the job description and the organizational culture:  For example, if you're being hired as the Head of Digital Transformation with a mandate to help the company become 'more visionary', but the corporate website spends a lot of time talking about 'old-fashioned values' and the people you meet during the interview process crack jokes about how your fancy iPhone means you must be a hipster, you may be in for trouble.

    Again, these are cues to probe for more information.  Don't be afraid to ask, for example, how this 'Digital Transformation' role will align with the values stated on the website.  The response you get will tell you a lot about how the organization really sees this new role they've created and how committed they are to change.

    (I was once hired by a pharmaceutical company with a mandate to create 'new and innovative' approaches which could 'really drive change' in a computer training program.  When the first person I spoke to on my first day of work said, "We shouldn't waste our time on PCs - they're just a fad...", I knew I was in for a rough ride.)
  3. Ask if they've tried to establish this role before:  Have they tried to hire for this role in the past, but been either unable to do so or unable to keep the person (people?) they've hired?  This could be a good indication that the role isn't properly defined or isn't well-supported within the organization.
  4. Ask what success looks like - specifically:  If the role doesn't come with clearly defined goals ("Well, we're looking for you to tell us what we should be shooting for here..."), you'll likely find yourself at the mercy of competing priorities - and you'll never be able to get anything done.  What's more, you may have difficulty gaining consensus and support for your changes, because you won't be able to refer back to a central mandate.
  5. Ask about the budget and resourcing assigned to the role or project:  If the person interviewing you says "Oh, we haven't assigned any funding" or "Well, we're waiting for the person we hire to tell us how much money and staff we'll need", it's probably time to run the other way, because no one is taking the role or project seriously.
  6. Ask for examples of previous change initiatives - and their results:  If the organization can point to a recent 'transformation' in another area that went well, it's a good indication that the company copes well with change.  If all you hear are stories about how previous change initiatives haven't gone over well ("But I'm sure with you in this new role it'll all be different!"), you may want to rethink whether you're going to be set up for success.
  7. Go with your gut:  If you've been in the working world for a few years, and something about the opportunity just doesn't seem right to you, it may be that your subconscious is picking up on clues your conscious brain is missing.  

    In business, we're often told to ignore our 'feelings' and stick to the facts, but our gut reactions are our life experience talking - and that's worth something.  

    So step back, take some time to reflect on what you've been told about the role, and then see how you feel.

Don't get me wrong - sometimes you have to take big risks in order to achieve big things, and jumping into a whole new role with a big mandate could be a fantastic opportunity for you to make a big splash and take a big leap forward in your career.  I'm simply suggesting you take a calculated risk rather than a reckless one.



Most of the time on this blog, we talk about change management from the perspective of the organization:  How to more effectively manage the various moving parts of change so that the organization sees the maximum return on their change efforts.

However, I was recently asked for my advice on change management from the perspective of an individual employee.  Whether they are in the midst of an official 'change initiative' or not, organizations are never static; they're always evolving and adapting to changing market conditions, competitive environments, or economic factors.  So in many ways, change is a constant from an employee perspective.

In Part I of our Employee Perspective on change, we discuss what happens when an employee finds the core values of an organization have changed.

Q:  When I joined the company, I found their core values aligned with my own.  However, lately I've noticed that just isn't true for me any longer.  I'm reluctant to make a big move at the moment, given the economy.  Is there a way I can stay with the company, or should I resign myself to finding a new job?


  1. First, look at the specifics of your situation.  Is it really true to say that your values and those of the organization don't align any more, or are there specific issues which are concerning you?

    For example, you may not appreciate that the company's stance on 'lifetime employment for all' has changed in the 15 years since you joined, but that's true for almost all organizations these days.  At the same time, the company's commitment to ethical working conditions and supporting community organizations (two values which are also important to you) are still intact.

    It's worthwhile to take a few minutes to clearly articulate - in writing! - where your values and those of the organization align, and where they diverge.  You may discover you're actually more aligned than you think.
  2. Do a level check with like-minded employees.  For example, if 'quality' was a highly-prized value when you first joined the company, but now seems to have gone by the wayside in pursuit of shareholder value, find out how other employees at your level are coping with the apparent disconnect.  

    You may find that some of your co-workers are continuing to work as though quality is still a highly important value, and that may give you the confidence to do the same.  On the other hand, you may find that they aren't experiencing pressure to forego quality, and that the difficulty is actually more to do with a specific manager in your department, not the whole organization.

    Remember, it's not unusual for a company to temporarily lose its way during a difficult time, but if enough employees continue to operate to high standards, the organization as a whole may find its way back over time.  Even individual employees have the power to make the difference in the organizational culture.
  3. Create an exit strategy.  You may find that, as you look at specifics and examine the company as a whole, there are some values on which you simply can't compromise, such as ethical business practices.  If you find those values have changed, you may still need to consider leaving.  But don't resign in a huff, or spend a lot of time griping to co-workers about 'the good old days'.  Make a plan, and give yourself the time and space you need to find the right kind of work in a company that aligns with your values.

    You'll feel better knowing you have a plan and that your employment will have an end date - even if it is 6-12 months in the future.


NEXT:  The Employee Perspective, Part II:  This isn't the job I was hired for

Wednesday, 27 March 2013 07:12

Change Leadership: A tale of two departments

A few years ago I was working with a mid-sized packaged goods company which had two large operations in different parts of the country.  Each operation focused on a particular product line, for which it had separate sales departments, and the change initiative was to unite the technology systems for both to allow for better cross-selling and customer service.

Six months into the project I was perplexed:  While one operation was proceeding effectively with the changes, and was already showing positive results (increased sales and better customer feedback, etc.), the other facility had stalled, and we were starting to meet active resistance.

At first, the reasons were unclear:  Though the organizational goals were aligned across both operations, we'd prepared customized change strategies for each location based on their people, process and technology.  How had we gotten one change plan so right and the other so - apparently - wrong?

As I've mentioned before, good communication is the foundation of any successful change management strategy and implementation.  I decided to spend some time at the underperforming facility, talking not just to project team members but to various other staffers as well, to see what I could find out.

Spending a few days on-site at the underperforming facility and talking to employees quickly revealed the problem:  The VP Sales of that operation had missed several key planning meetings at the beginning of the change process due to work-related travel commitments.  Though he'd been provided with documentation - and had participated in subsequent meetings - he'd been left feeling under-consulted and left out of the process.  In addition, there were long-standing rivalries between the two operations which hadn't been adequately articulated in these key early planning meetings - so the VP Sales was feeling threatened by the changes.

The result was that while the VP Sales of the high-performing operations was actively engaged in the change and was doing a great job of enthusiastically leading his people forward, the VP Sales of the underperforming operation was not only demonstrating lacklustre leadership for the change, but was actively undermining it by telling his managers that change-related tasks were a 'low priority' and could safely be sidelined in favor of 'business as usual'.

The solution

As it turned out, the solution to our problem was relatively straightforward:  We (the CEO, the VP Operations, and I) spent an afternoon with the VP Sales of the underperforming operation to review the change strategy, with particular emphasis on the decision-making rationale that he had missed earlier in the process.  We actively solicited his insight and input and made a couple of revisions based on that input.  He became a much more enthusiastic supporter of the change initiative, and went back to his people with a more positive leadership approach.

The lessons

  1. Don't underestimate the value of single individuals in the success or failure of a change initiative.  A single unengaged VP can derail an entire change initiative.
  2. Don't assume enthusiasm and engagement.  Even though the underperforming VP Sales hadn't been at some of the early planning meetings, we'd simply assumed that - since he hadn't expressed concern or issues at subsequent meetings - he was on board and as enthusiastic as everyone else.
  3. A little bit of TLC can go a long way.  Once we determined the problem, we didn't 'bully' the unengaged VP Sales into compliance or 'shame' him by comparing him to the high-performing VP Sales.  Instead, we took the time to review the change strategy with him, ask for his insight, and implemented revisions which addressed his concerns.  It's amazing how demonstrating respect and consideration can transform a non-engaged leader into a fully-engaged one.

BONUS LESSON:  If key members of the change strategy team can't participate in early meetings, ensure they are provided with one-on-one follow up.  Making the time to keep everyone on the same page right from the beginning will save a lot of time and frustration later on.


So you've just spent the past 12 months working on your change initiative:  First there were weeks of requirements gathering, followed by a lengthy strategic planning process, then systems setup and training - it's been a long, involved year.  But now it's the official launch date, and you can finally relax - right?

Well...not really.  As the kids say, it's about to get real up in here.

Even the best laid plans...

Sustaining a change can sometimes prove elusive.  Once a business initiative is implemented, project teams cease to meet regularly, feedback loops dry up and everyone gets back to business as usual.  Except that the old 'business as usual' doesn't exist any more, and confusion ensues.

It's important to remember that while you've been working with this change for months, it's still relatively new to almost everyone else affected by it.  Employees may have been through training and other types of preparation, but the changed environment isn't second nature to them yet.  And make no mistake:  To sustain a change, whatever you're asking people to do must become second nature to them.

Change is happening all the time

No company is static, no matter what business it's in.  In addition to the 'official changes' encompassed a change initiative, the business and the marketplace continue to evolve independently.  It's important for the project team - and for those departments which are involved in sustaining the official change mandate - to demonstrate how the new ways continue to align with the business.  This may involve weaving changes into new market information, reflecting them in new marketing materials and sales processes, or demonstrating how the changes will continue to positively impact customer service.  Actively creating these connections will help people transition from 'previous state' to 'present state' while maintaining continuity.

Respect the past

The last thing people want to hear during a change launch is that everything they've been doing up to now has been a waste of time.  As you move into the implementation phase, avoid trashing or discounting the previous way of doing things - it will only create morale issues that will adversely affect employees' enthusiasm for the change.

A better approach is to show how the changes are necessary building blocks for the future of the organization, and how they will deliver great outcomes for both the company and for the individuals involved.

Demonstrate progress

People will always get more excited about a change - and do a better job of sustaining it - when you can demonstrate that you are moving towards your goals.  It's imperative to build key metrics into your change management project plan, and keep them updated both as you approach the implementation and well afterwards.

The most obvious metric is the impact of the change on the bottom line, but there should also be a range of other metrics that you can point to:  It may be the successful launch of a new product, an expansion into a new area, an advance over the competition - whatever makes the most sense to your organization and the change mandate.  Keeping employees updated on progress well into the implementation phase will help maintain motivation.

Giving it all some closure

As we've discussed, implementation day isn't the end of the change initiative.  However, there is value in taking the time to recognize that a change has been successful - that the new ways of doing business have become second nature and are delivering results.  By recognizing this 'closure', and communicating it to employees, you're giving everyone permission to feel good about what they've accomplished and acknowledging their hard work.

You may not be able to set a calendar date for this closure - it may make more sense to time it to a sales goal or compliance target - but it should be set at the beginning of the change initiative, and clearly communicated to the organization.  It's a good way to draw a line under the initiative, which will make it easier to move on to the next one (because there's always a next one!).


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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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changesmart tm

ChangeSmart™ Advantage

Change is a fact of life today in business, but that doesn’t make it any easier to carry out successfully. ChangeSmart™ is a framework, a way to approach change. It is a roadmap for success.
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Improve your bottom line through change.



Achieve your goals by focusing on three critical areas.


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