You are leading a transformation. What you are doing is critical to the future of your organization. It’s strategic. You can’t afford to fail.
You built the burning platform and you made the case for change. You sold that change with a massive meeting, and you threw down the gauntlet.
- Week one: Everyone is on board, excited, and taking action. You are implementing, executing, and gathering feedback. You are sharing the results. Things are moving a long nicely.
- Week two: Mostly everyone is still on board and taking some action. Some of them are implementing, and some are struggling with the new actions. Those that are struggling are asking questions–and they’re questioning whether or not they can do what is being asked of them. Your leadership team keeps pushing forward.
- Week three: A lot of people are still on board, but they’ve gotten busy. They are too busy to focus on the new initiative, and they start slipping back into their old habits, the habits and activities that you are trying to kill. Your leadership team keeps pushing forward, but it’s hard to hold back the flood of problems, challenges, and backsliders.
- Week four: The leadership team starts to give up the ghost. They start backsliding. You’ve let up a bit, and you accept that they really are busy. You start to give them more room. You let them off the hook. The initiative teeters on the brink.
Maybe I have the timeline wrong. Maybe it’s not 4 weeks. Let’s say it’s 12 weeks. Or 16 weeks if you like that better. It changes nothing; this is how initiatives die. Here’s what to do about it.
Hold Them Accountable: If you are going to push your initiative over the line, you are going to have to hold everyone in the organization accountable for the changes. This includes the leadership team, as well as all of the individuals they lead.
Put Change First on the Agenda: Begin every conversation and every meeting with an update on the status of the changes being made. By putting the change initiative first, you demonstrate its importance. And you prove that you are never going away or giving up.
Appoint a Task Force: Find the true believers, the proselytizers, the fire-breathers and appoint them to a task force. Give them responsibilities for identifying those who are struggling to make change with the directive to help them–at any cost.
Identify and Resell the Holdouts: There are many who will try to wait you out. They’re smart, too. They’ve seen enough initiatives die in the past, they’ve been trained to wait you out. Identify them. Single them out. Isolate them and sell them individually on the importance of your initiative. Ask them to personally support you and to act as leaders.
If you give people space, they will wait you out. If you aren’t serious about your transformation, if you dabble around the edges, you will lose to the great pull and the irresistible allure of the status quo.