Mark Eaton

Making Change Stick

by Mark Eaton MSc MBA CEng FRSA

A while ago we undertook a study of 120 companies who had been through a 'Change Programme' of different types on behalf of a public body and what we discovered was that over 87% of the programmes had 'failed', meaning the programme had not been adopted by the organisation and it had not managed to realise the financial and operational benefits of the change.

In analysing the organisations that had been successful, combined with our ongoing work with manufacturers, the armed forces, the NHS and service sector businesses over the last 18 months, we found that the key to success could be summed up as:

  • The selection of the right 'tools'
  • Applied in an effective manner
  • By motivated people

In testing this we then found that every organisation who had failed to achieve sustainable change had failed because they had not addressed one of the issues detailed above. The most common mistakes made by organisations being:

  • Choosing a change philosophy that did not suit the organisation, for example, choosing to adopt Six Sigma (highly analytical) when the organisation suited a more intuitive change style or philosophy.
  • Failing to 'move to action' by spending lots of money on training, coaching, planning and discussing, but then failing to act, resulting in all the preparatory work being in vain.
  • Imposing change without engaging the staff – either by using outside consultants who designed and then implemented the change (often in the face of resistance from the staff) or where the managers told or led the team to the solution.

In understanding why 87% of organisations fail to achieve sustainable change, we also have to consider the concept of 2nd Order Change.

1st Order Change is about changing processes, whilst 2nd Order Change is about changing behaviours. As an example, when the compulsory wearing of seatbelts was first introduced into the UK there were constant reminders on TV and the Police spent a lot of time reminding car drivers because people kept forgetting – what had happened was that we had achieved 1st Order Change by changing the process. Through constant focus and ongoing training and support/encouragement, coupled with the fact that occasionally the press reported someone being prosecuted for not wearing a seatbelt, most people now don't even think about putting the seatbelt on – that is because their behaviours have changed.

Most organisations change the processes (1st Order Change) and think that behaviours will change without any further action or management focus, but people don't change overnight and the successful achievement of change that is sustainable in the longer term relies on the combination of 'Inspiration, Transformation and Synchronisation'.

Inspiration is concerned with leaders creating the right environment for change to work and typically includes such things as strategic planning, leadership development and personal mentoring.

Transformation is about implementing the change (and therefore making the change programme pay for itself) and should include a range of tools drawn from Lean, Six Sigma, Kaizen, Continuous Improvement as well as Creative Thinking and Problem Solving tools, based on the needs of the organisation.

Synchronisation is concerned with aligning employees to the objectives of the organisation and also gaining their commitment to the change process, which we achieve through cultural mapping, surveys and team/group work.

In terms of sustainable change it is important to remember:

  • Without Inspiration there is no direction
  • Without Transformation there is no improvement
  • Without Synchronisation there is no sustainability

We have tested these concepts with a wide range of organisations from the NHS, Armed Forces, Manufacturing and the Service Sector and have been able to achieve impressive 2nd Order results, all achieved by focusing on:

  • The selection of the right 'tools'
  • Applied in an effective manner
  • By motivated people

Copyright © Mark Eaton

About the Author
Mark Eaton

Mark Eaton is a partner in Nx Transformation Ltd, a specialist consultancy dealing with the introduction of sustainable change within complex organisations. Mark is also a director of Advance Projects Ltd, which assists public organisations to design, and implement complex support programmes aimed at raising productivity and levels of innovation. Mark was formerly director of the UK's Manufacturing Advisory Service in a number of UK Regions and was awarded the Viscount Nuffield Medal for his contribution to UK Industry.

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Managing Change in the Workplace

For practical help with your change program, check out our resource kit, Managing Change in the Workplace. This comprehensive guide is intended for everyone expected to lead, manage and implement change. Visit the Managing Change in the Workplace information portal to find out how to download the free Introductory Chapter and start using this practical change management guide and workbook today.

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