70% of change efforts fail or do not reach the expected results. This is real for any change management program, also for the ones related to an agile transition. Why and how to enable the new behaviors, approaches, rules, to take root in the corporate culture?
Changing is hard work.
Any human being, by his very nature, seeks balance, repetitiveness, usual rythms, constant pace. This stability is the necessary precondition to pursue any other objective.
According to the Maslow’s pyramid, he needs to satisfy any physiological and safety necessity before being able to look for a sense of belonging, self-esteem and actualyzation.
This means that only when a good level of solidity in those primary elements is reached, is possible for that individual to seek for performance, improvements.
Organizations are made by people. Any organization pursues stability as well. It happens, though, that its status-quo is continuously challenged by factors like new needs of the market, more aggressive competitors, new laws or regulations.
These challenges often become threats, affecting its sense of safety (i.e. market share reduction, decrease of revenues, etc.) and this imposes the organization to change.
The question in these cases is how to change an organization to be more effective, performing and competitive, being disruptive in the market, but sustaining the people in the change process and contemporarily assuring the change takes root in the corporate culture?
The ADKAR® Change Model
One of the most famous and used model for change management, is the ADKAR® Prosci model.
This model is mainly considered as an individual change management model, but it can be easily derived and transposed for homogeneous groups of people like teams, departments, etc.
It is easy to understand because it addresses the natural order of how a person experiences change. The word ADKAR is an acronym:
A - awareness
D – desire
K – knowledge
A – ability
R – reinforcement
The model suggests a simple process that helps to guide people through the awareness of the need for change, instilling firstly the desire to be part of such a change, helping them to develop their knowledge and transforming it into new abilities.
The last (very important) step is to reinforce these new behaviors, habits and competences, by anchoring them to the new organization success, creating, de-facto, a new corporate culture.
Change means stepping out of the comfort zone, actually moving in a context of uncertainties. This provokes stress and could strongly impact the sense of safety of any individual.
Facing uncertainty presupposes the capacity to deal with risks, to move between hypothesis, ability to use an empirical approach to act, inspect the results and hence adapt the behavior.
To help people abandon their comfort zone, it is necessary to explain the why: why this change is so important.
Kotter in his change model, defines this as “Create a sense of urgency“. And, to do this effectively, it is necessary to clearly communicate the compelling reasons, avoiding any rumors or misunderstandings.
It is important to communicate frequently, by using different channels, in differen manners, to objectively state these reasons, strongly connecting them to external observable drivers and measures,
It is not sufficient to just create awareness, you need to literally install the desire to change. Motivation here is paramount.
The leaders who are driving the change, need to understand what are the intrinsic levers of the involved people to maneuver.
They definitely need to clarify the what and the how of the change.
In this phase it is necessary to sustain the the wider, global and less distinct communication the organization is making, with a more specific, personal one, with one to one communication or communicating with limited local groups of people (teams, small departements, offices, etc.).
The categories of workers who are in charge to do that are the supervisors, the line managers, the ones who are coordinating small portions of the population that will be impacted by the change.
They should know their people and how to motivate them.
Once the desire to change has been successfully created, it’s time to move one, giving the people the possibilities, tools and right resources to develop their knowledge according to the new necessities.
A good training program must be drawn up by firstly assessing the real skills of everyone about the desired level to achieve.
This assessment should take into account any psychological, intellectual and physical capability of the people involved, to be sure to deliver the right typology and level of training, for any homogeneous group of people.
This is a really important concept and a core level of the ADKAR® change management model.
To let a new knowledge become new ability, time is necessary, practice is necessary, coaching is necessary.
Time helps the brain to rearrange the information, creating new connections. But this alone is not sufficient.
Any new knowledge must be reinforced by reviewing it and, most important, practicing it as soon as possible.
One of the most Confucius famouos quotes says:
What I hear, I forget.
What I see, I remember.
What I do, I understand.
In order to help practitioners to correctly act the new skills, it is necessary to correct any disfunctionality and, vicevera, reinforce any good behavior.
Here the support of a coach is foundameental and the role of the supervisors or line manager continue to be central and vital to address the growth of their collaborators.
These leader must create a safety environment where failure is allowed and when success is reached, this must be celebrated, even small-wins.
Recognitions and awards must be specifically studied.
Changing is hard work, even more if considering that the experience says that many of the modifications of the corporate culture occurs at the end of the planned change process.
Failing in communicating the need for change, thinking that creating awareness is sufficient instead of also installing the desire for change, or even allowing too much complacency or forgetting to sustain and reinforce the change in the long-term, most of, the times opens the doors to a general roll-back to the old habits.