Think about the last time you tried something new. Most likely, you felt excited, but also a bit hesitant. Whether it’s a new food or joining a new club, there are undeniable initial nerves before the first bite or before the first meeting.
When a company undertakes a change initiative, those same feelings permeate through the organization. Understandably so— organizational changes are typically major events. In a recent change readiness study, high percentages of organizations took on cultural changes, restructuring, market expansions, and mergers and acquisitions.
In the same change readiness survey, only 13% of survey respondents indicated that there would be fewer changes across the following three years at their organization. And research shows, this is only the beginning. Most executives believe the pace of change will never be slower than it is today.
If this is only the beginning, and change will be faster and more frequent in the future, change must be easy to implement, right?
Wrong. Research shows 50% of organizations report their changes as clear failures.
Organizations struggle to successfully implement change because employees self-report that, despite being willing and capable of change, they are NOT effectively changing behaviors nor are they quick to change. In fact, only 17% agree that they are quickly changing their behaviors when the organization goes through a major change.
Based on our experience in working with customer service organizations around the world, this primarily comes down to how the organization supports the change. We find that many organizations will undertake a massive change initiative without pausing to consider how it will play out across the lower levels of their org charts, specifically supervisors and frontline reps.
The last thing you want at your organization is for your latest initiative to become another “flavor of the month”. In order for the rest of your employees who aren’t changing their behaviors to get onboard, remove barriers that may prevent their success at the beginning, and continuously throughout implementation. At Challenger, we work with a wide variety of organizations on implementing cultural change through our change management best practices, which rest on a foundation of building momentum and removing friction. Not only does it kick start cultural change at an organization, but it also fosters long-term sustainability.
Let’s think about behavioral change in comparison to the ice sport of curling. The goal is to slide a stone across the ice and land it very precisely on a target. Whether or not the stone lands where you want it to land is dictated by two forces: momentum and friction.
In terms of momentum, the curler needs to skate and give the stone a good push to get it going. Once they have, their teammates sweep the ice in front of the stone with brooms to control its direction and speed by controlling friction – less friction means the stone slides further and faster, more friction and it slows down. The only way to get the stone to land on the goal is by understanding these critical counteracting forces.
Behavior change is very similar. Step one is knowing what your target is. Once you do, you can’t just will your employees to follow – it takes momentum to get going and motivation to do something different. And any friction that gets in the way chips away at that momentum, such that enough friction will stop the behavior in its tracks. With that in mind, step two is understanding how to create momentum and remove friction, which will be discussed in part two of this two-part series.