Six Tips to Create Successful Organizational Change
I remember, some years ago, seeing an inspiring message revealing how just one extra degree of effort can lead to transformative change. It was a powerful metaphor and illustrated how, at 211 degrees Fahrenheit, water is hot but at 212 degrees it boils, and boiling water leads to steam, which can power a locomotive.
In much the same way, organizations are seeking to change their state — to transform — to be capable of driving powerful differences in customer experience, business models, or enterprise-wide. The promise of the message is that the difference between winning in the market and staying average is one small step – a small adjustment – or just “one extra degree.”
I liked this message as it offers hope and inspiration around creating meaningful organizational change. However, I remember thinking, “It’s not that simple or that easy. It’s a lot of small steps, adjustments, plus persistence.”
Consider what it takes to power a locomotive. It’s an analogy for powering organizational transformation.
Organizational Transformation Takes More Energy than You Realize
If you remember a little physics from school, you may recall the term “latent heat of vaporization.” It’s geek-speak for “it takes more than five times as much energy to turn water into steam as it takes to heat water from freezing to boiling.” Yes, it takes more than five times the effort for that “one extra degree.” In my example of the steam locomotive, 80 percent of the energy required to drive the turbines is consumed transforming water into steam. It takes a lot of energy, but the payoff is worth it
Organizational Transformation Efforts Fail Because People Run Out of Steam for Sustainable Change
The energy required to sustain change momentum is a significant reason why organizational transformation efforts typically fail.
Leaders and organizational change advocates are inspired by the potential and promise of a new way of working. They can almost taste that promise. It’s just around the corner. It’s only one extra degree. But, while it may be easy to envision, that promise of “easy effort” is a mirage.
To bring it back to our water to steam example, the “extra degree” required to convert water into a different state, that will drive the engine, takes a huge amount of energy. The expenditure is worth it for a steam turbine as it is to achieve an improved, future-state in your organization because it’s the driving force behind business and customer success. While sustainable and successful organizational change requires persistent energy, there are ways that you can make your change initiative more realistic and manageable. Be prepared, be committed, and consider some of these ways to avoid running out of steam before you succeed.
Avoid Running Out of Steam for Sustainable Organizational Change
Use these six tips to start thinking about your change management initiatives and change leadership more realistically:
- Look at change management as a journey with milestone achievements versus a project that ends.
- Minimize the size of your change management goals and break down those milestones into measurable, valuable, and durable goals to achieve.
- Think about energy as a renewable resource to propel you to the next stage or milestone. It can provide positive momentum for the next leg of the journey.
- Realize that you don’t need everything at the outset of your change initiative that you will need to succeed and finish. You will grow and gain new information, support, and resources along the journey.
- Minimize diffuse or escaping energy by adopting good organizational change management principles and techniques (look for our future article).
- Your proficiency with change leadership can accelerate your success. If you are new to leading change, I’d recommend doubling your estimate of time needed to achieve stated goals.
Creating Successful, Sustainable Organizational Change is Possible
If you are a change management leader or advocate, you can create the energy needed to create successful, sustainable organizational change and SDLC Partners can help. Our organizational change experts have a proven track record of guiding organizations through all levels and sizes of transformation.