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7. Embedding change

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Staff affected by change: Changes and new ways of working will take time to get right. You should anticipate teething issues along the way. It takes time and effort to embed successful change.

Managing implementation tasks, such as communication campaigns and training, will be your primary activities at this stage. However, what if after all of your efforts, some people still seem to resist the changes you are trying to implement? One useful way of understanding why people (our teams and stakeholders) may be resistant to the change is to ask these three questions.

Are people fully aware of the context and nature of the change?

Your team or stakeholders may not be as aware as you are of the bigger picture – including the reasons for the change, and the drivers for it being implemented now. Ask yourself the following questions, and consider whether the people concerned could answer them accurately.

  • What would happen if nothing changed? 
  • How might the change affect people's jobs or working practices? 
  • What will change, and what will not? 
  • How should people behave once the change has been implemented?

In other words, ask yourself if people are fully aware of why the change is happening, and what it actually means for the people concerned. If you decide that people aren't fully aware of the context and nature of the change, consider what exactly needs supporting further – and how you will do this to create the biggest impact.

Is there an unwillingness to go along with the change?

Some people may be aware of the context and nature of the change, but either don't agree with it or just don't want to behave differently. In these cases, ask yourself the following questions.

  • How can you use Robert Cialdini theory on influence to increase people's willingness? 
  • Can you encourage small behavioural changes to start with? 
  • How can you tap into what really motivates someone to get them to go along with the change? 
  • What are the consequences should they continue to resist, and how can you make these clear?
  • Is fear and a lack of confidence holding people back?

Ask yourself these questions, which may shine a light on people's resistance – and help you think of some ways forward:

Is there a fear of not being capable of working in the 'new way', a fear of the unknown, or of not being able to cope?

  • Is there a lack of confidence in people's skills, or are there deeply ingrained behaviours that people don't think they can change? 
  • How can you encourage small steps and reward successes? 
  • How can you help identify existing skills and strengths that may just have to be applied in a slightly new way? 
  • What isn't actually changing? 
  • What training, coaching and mentoring can you provide?

Celebrating a new beginning:

Once you have dealt with any resistance and the change is firmly in the 'new beginning' stage, it is the time to celebrate your success with your change team. Congratulate yourself and your team on a job well done. Take the time to review the change process, with the help of a 'lessons learned exercise' to acknowledge what went well and what could be done differently in the future. Continuous improvement and iterations are normal components of embedding real change, so anticipate and build in appropriate reviews and on-going communications or support as you progress.