Have you ever tried to implement a change only to have it fail completely? If so, you’re not alone. According to the Project Management Institute, 67% of all projects fail to get fully implemented. Where does the change fail? In the roll out phase.

Failure can take many forms. Sometimes the failure is actually non-implementation. Other times the change is implemented but it results in a faulty process or system. Sometimes the failure is bad feelings due to lack of communication.

As a department manager I led a big project to implement an electronic fax system across our business unit. The team I managed at the time received customer requests through fax machines. It was an unwieldy, unreliable way to handle the large volume of work that came in. Since my department had the most to gain, I was the assigned the project. The project itself was a success. The communication was a failure.

I learned a lot from that experience and my next project went a lot better. Here are some guidelines for a successful change implementation:

Communicate with all impacted parties. On my first project, I didn’t do a good job of including the other department managers who would be using the system. The next project included a detailed sub-project just for the communication plan. It involved a lot of meetings and a lot of time to get feedback and input from others before any work began. It was worth it because when people feel included they are more likely to support the change.

Provide clear documentation. Document the change using a formal process. If you are implementing a change to an existing process, or creating a new process, use a standardized operating procedure (SOP) document.

 If you are casual about your communication, people will be casual about the implementation.

Give a good reason. People are more likely to get on board with change when they understand why it’s being done. Change that seems arbitrary is often met with skepticism. Identifying the good reason will also help ensure that you are solving the right problem before going down the wrong path.

Know what leadership style to use. Mandatory change that’s caused by regulatory or policy requirements isn’t up for debate. As a leader you have to take a directive approach to the change. However, process changes will be accepted more readily if you include the affected parties in the decision-making process. If you don’t you are likely to get resistance and the change won’t stick.

Create a follow up plan. What gets inspected gets respected. If you roll out a change to a process and never follow up on it you can be guaranteed it won’t stick. It isn’t because people don’t want to do their job. It’s because we are creatures of habit and comfort. If you don’t follow up people won’t think it’s that important and they’ll go back to doing it the old way out of habit.

Follow these guidelines for implementation and you will increase your chance of a successful change implementation.

Make a bigger impact, get better results, and motivate your team to do their best!

Change that Sticks
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