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Change Management Lesson #2: Don’t Give Up Too Early

Last weekend I finished my first half-marathon in Berlin. The first 7 km were just great fun. I ran through the Brandenburg Gate while the sun was shining and bands were playing rhythmic music. I then wondered why I hadn’t done this before. But around halftime, I recalled why: my feet started aching. To be honest I don’t remember the last three kilometers. They are just blurred memories of me going: “don’t give up, don’t give up”. It was just sheer determination. Like in a tunnel I just forced myself not to stop, because I knew: at the end the pain wouldn’t matter.

Doesn’t this sound like one of your change projects? It starts with all the bells and whistles and then it ends agonizingly (and sometimes it doesn’t even end)? Many projects fail to deliver because leaders lower their guards too early. They might think the change has been implemented, but as long as an initiative doesn’t deliver the promised results it can be assumed that support and work is still required.

So how can you maintain the energy up until the end? Here a few recommendations:

  • Start slowly – the greater your first announcements are, the bigger the expectations, but also the disappointment will be. Start low key, focus first on involving decisional rather than impacted stakeholders and set up a realistic and short term plan.
  • Distribute motivational milestones along the change roadmap – by delivering regular quick-wins and project signposts you not only ensure continuous motivation of your change supporters, but also create a positive spin around your change.
  • Spread the change leadership responsibility – you can’t change the world, or even your organization, just by yourself. The more people you can involve in the effort, the easier it will be to keep the momentum. Shared responsibility is collective caring!
  • Support a culture of change – the more change becomes ingrained in your company’s DNA, the easier it will be for your employees to learn to slowly adapt. And on the other hand, one big-bang change will be harder to put in place, than many little adjustments.

The end will come. Most likely it will come later than planned. If you have well prepared yourself and your team, you will manage. Not all aspects of the changes will be happy and sunny, but at the end, what your people will recall and what you will be proud of, is to have achieved such amazing results together. Don’t forget to regularly congratulate your team and yourself for this!

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Leave a Comment:

Franck Hesse says

Hi Karin,
thanks for your blog posts, just came across them today and have to tell you they are well written. I like how you combine lessons with stories, keep it up.
Franck

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