When you’ve spent months–perhaps years–preparing for a race, how would it feel to turn around just as you are about to cross the finish line? Crazy, right? Just imagine how your friends and family would react to your decision. They would probably wonder why you wasted your time competing only to stop short from experiencing real achievement. In fact, how can you ever hope to be competitive when you fail to follow through for the end result?
It’s the same with change management. For example, at Simplus, our clients realized that to be competitive in their industry, they needed to change their work processes. In some cases, it required a literal transformation in the way that organization operated. But the key to adopting those sweeping changes relied on reinforcing the value of those changes and seeing it through until the adoption is complete.
Reinforcement is the final element in Prosci’s ADKAR Model. And although it’s not mentioned until the end, the impact reinforcement presents at each phase of change management makes it the most influential element out of the five stages.
According to Prosci, the reinforcement stage “represents the internal and external factors that serve to sustain a change.” And exploring ways to apply reinforcing principles to your change management investment is easier than you think.
Here are five ways to start incorporating reinforcement into your change management strategies.
1. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the problem.
As a decision-maker in change management, it’s important to offer support to your team. But providing the right kind of support is even better. “It’s one thing to articulate the change required and entirely another to conduct a critical review against organizational objectives and performance goals to ensure the change will carry your business in the right direction strategically, financially, and ethically,” explained professional trainer Fionnuala Courtney.
Identify the roadblocks that prevent your team from achieving higher levels of productivity. Reinforce the need for improvement. Then, consider the solutions that may improve the work process.
2. Ensure the change eliminates roadblocks.
It’s not helpful if the transformation requires more steps than the original problem. And it certainly won’t be a process that anyone will take seriously. That is why partnering reinforcement with clear communication, support, and collaboration is a winning formula. Take the time to talk about the parts of the job that slow down the overall process. What things would your team change if they could? What resources do they feel are essential? Then discuss how those desired features may be incorporated into the updated system. Finally, reinforce the benefits these changes will contribute toward eliminating roadblocks and redundant tasks.
3. Promote the new work processes and celebrate the changes.
Let’s face it. Transformation is not quick nor easy, so it’s tempting to shrug off the changes and revert to old processes. Reinforcement is a two-sided coin, encouragement, and accountability. Encouraging adoption begins with celebrating early, and reinforcing the value of this transformation is so strategic. Additionally, team supervisors and managers should reinforce new processes in check-ins to prevent users from slipping into old habits through coaching and celebrating their wins.
“Identifying early milestones and quick wins starts during the mission planning process,” explained Forbes contributor Brent Gleeson.“If these projects are not clearly defined, time bound and owned by specific people the chances of being able to celebrate early successes diminishes.” This is the time for your team to visualize the benefits these changes will provide and get excited about the new capabilities.
For instance, training is an opportunity to not only build the “KA” of ADKAR with knowledge and ability but is also a time to celebrate this exciting step to reinforce the importance each team plays in a successful transformation.
4. Make sure policies and procedures match the implementation.
The focus of change management is to make work pathways faster, stronger, better than ever before. Reinforcing goals that build momentum and promote accountability while minimizing the negative consequences to resisting change is an important part of that process.
Along with providing new ways to identify, track, and serve customers, most transformations create a more transparent and measurable work performance. Make sure your updated policies are meaningful and create a supportive, positive work environment. “Managers and supervisors play a key role in recognizing and rewarding the hard work and contributions of employees,” wrote the Prosci staff. “Managers are ideally positioned to recognize the efforts and achievements of their direct reports, both during the change process and after implementing change.” Using a rewards system to reinforce employee support while publicly celebrating excellent job performance, for example, can encourage staff to use the new system and not revert to the old ways.
5. Welcome ongoing feedback on recent changes and future plans.
Everyone wants to feel appreciated and valued, especially in a changing work environment. IT is the ideal time shortly after launching a new initiative to evaluate whether your change management activities are accomplishing their goals. When in doubt, simply ask those who work within the updated system each day. Ask them to be specific on improvements and touch on any drawbacks to the change. Then, listen! Take note of the feedback from your staff and apply it to future goals for continued growth.
As the final leg in the ADKAR model—behind Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, and Ability—Reinforcing the benefits of a digital transformation, or any change in a work process, can be the positive kick you need to set a winning tone and maintain focus on the end result.