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Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes

Why Successful Change Requires More than Just Systems, Processes and Procedures

Change is a constant and increasingly permanent aspect of modern business – and we are not adapting quickly enough. Too few of us possess genuine change capability as we struggle under the weight of escalating change initiatives and expectations.

Research collaboration between the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and i4cp found that only 17% of business and learning professionals surveyed rate their organization as highly effective in managing change initiatives. That’s not very encouraging when most organisations are facing a minimum of three major changes per year (2014).

Successful change of any type ultimately requires people to do something different. Whether that is to use a new IT system or answer the telephone differently - someone somewhere has to change their behaviour. The simple, often overlooked fact is that people don’t like change. Behavioural change is not automatic and it’s not easy. But without behavioural change, the organization doesn’t change, and therefore, the measures that matter do not improve, leaving the organization with yet another missed opportunity.

As a result, most people focus on the easy bit - the systems, processes and procedures, the documentation and design of the change. They pour their focus into planning the change and communicating the change before the initiative and as soon as it starts the energy drains away as the ‘human element’ kicks in.

Organisational change only happens when people change, which means that we need to implement a change transfer strategy to support people with that process. We need a way of holding people to account so they will do what they say they will do and make the behavioural adjustments to allow the change to ‘stick’.

Today reflection is recognised as a vital component to behavioural change as it encourages the learner to assimilate the change, making it personal and relevant to their situation. Without this, the information is abstract and one dimensional, so it is easy to dismiss or ignore the directive. If the employee is supported and encouraged to apply that information to a real situation at work and can see how positively the interaction turns out, then they are much more likely to maintain the change.

Unfortunately, reflection is often ignored in favour of reinforcement. Instead of allowing people time to think about the change, they are simply told and re-told about the importance of the change. Reflection is very different from reinforcement and should never be ignored or underestimated.

Accountability is also crucial in maximising the results from change. We can’t force people to change, we can’t yell at them, plead with them, cajole or punish them to change. We can’t give them information and expect that they will automatically change work habits and processes that they have been using for years.

They need a structured process of intervention and support that allows the individual to choose the aspects of the change they want to implement first, give them time to reflect on the outcome of those behaviours and hold them accountable to making the change.

Authors Emma Weber, Patti Phillips, and Jack Phillips unpack the transfer strategy Turning Learning into Action™ (TLA) in their new book Making Change Work. Initially designed to transfer learning back into the workplace following learning initiatives, TLA is just as effective with change because it holds people to account after the change has been initiated to ensure people actually change their behaviour, which will in turn drive impact and deliver a return on investment.

Source:  ASTD and i4cp Whitepaper (2014) Change Agents:The Role of Organisational Learning in Change Management

About the authors: 

Emma Weber is the Founder and Director of Lever Learning. A recognised authority on the subject of transfer of learning, she created the Turning Learning into Action® methodology, established to help organizations and their employees create business results by converting learning to effective action back on the job.

Dr. Patti Phillips is President and CEO of the ROI Institute, Inc. She has implemented ROI in private and public sector organizations around the world, and has conducted ROI impact studies on programmes such as leadership development, sales, new hire orientation, and human performance improvement programmes.

Dr Jack J. Phillips is a world-renowned expert on accountability, measurement and evaluation, providing consulting services for Fortune 500 companies and major global organizations. His expertise in measurement and evaluation is based on more than twenty-seven years of corporate experience in the aerospace, textile, construction materials and banking industries, and in senior HR and Learning and Development roles. The American Society for Training and Development gave him its highest award for his work on ROI.

Special offer: Save 20% when you order Making Change Work with discount code HRMCWB