Enabling People Leaders to Sustain Organizational Change

Enabling People Leaders to Sustain Organizational Change

The value of organizational change comes from increasing the likelihood of securing organizational benefit/goals through:

  1. Minimizing the amount of people disruption associated with change
  2. Lessening the time required to move people from current to future state

Despite organizational change being a formal practice since the 1990s, organizations continue to struggle today to execute a change that helps successfully deliver their organizational benefits and goals.

What can organizations do differently for organizational change to deliver on its intended benefits and goals?  Place some focus on people leaders.


Learn to Sustain Change Using the Behavior Cycle

Change is all about moving people’s behavior to the new way.

What is behavior?

Behavior is any action that we take.

We do each specific behavior to gain something or avoid something. Each behavior we do has a motivation behind it.

Behavior is a cycle made up of A) triggers that prompt the behavior, B) the behavior occurring and C) reinforcement and/or consequences which determine if behavior will be repeated or cease.  The classic example of the behavior cycle is Pavlov’s dog where the bell rang (trigger), dog salivated (behavior) and the dog was given a treat(reinforcement) to continue the behavior.


How does behavior impact organizational change?

If we take the behavior cycle and think about it in terms of driving organizational change, triggers could include participation in user acceptance testing, pilot or training, receiving and reviewing communications, job aids, processes or procedures.  Reinforcement and consequences for organizational change could include: receipt of a gift card or time off, pay raise, bonus, pay cut or being put on a performance. Additionally, reinforcement is also critical in improved and/or streamlined processes, which can result in reducing time to complete work and frustrations related to inefficiencies.

According to Steve Jacobs in his book, The Behavior Breakthrough,  behavioral science informs us that for change to be sustained, 20% is dependent on the triggers while 80% is dependent on the behavior being reinforced or consequenced.

People leaders have the most power and authority to deliver reinforcement and consequences for an organizational change.  If we skill people leaders on driving the “right” behaviors for change and how to effectively reinforce and consequent these behaviors we substantially increase the chance of sustaining organizational change and delivery of the organizational benefits and goals.


Learn to Sustain Change Using Google Behaviors

While important, using reinforcement and consequences relative to change is not the only behavior people leaders need to act in order to sustain organizational change and deliver organizational benefits and goals.

Beginning in 2008, Google researchers were interested in understanding what made a manager great.  Their research revealed several behaviors that were found in their top talent. Google used and refined the behaviors in order to develop management talent.

The Google behaviors are a strong complement to the key roles people leaders need to engage in when successfully leading organizational change with their teams.  And, when we expand the Google behaviors to include leader actions, pictured below, we create practical ways people leaders can use the behaviors to not only lead organizational change but also position the team and organization for a better chance of sustaining organizational change.

 Google Behavior Leader Role in Change Leader Actions
1Be a good communicator and listenCommunicator Communicate and engage for change including using creative communication techniques such as storytelling
Cascade and translate key messages to make them meaningful and relevant to the team
2Support a clear vision and strategyConnect the organizational vision and strategy to the change and the team
3Empower your team; don’t micromanage  CoachLet the team become part of the change. Consider ways to include team members in how the change is communicated, implemented and optimized
4Be interested in team success & well being  Make the team aware that everyone has a role to play in the change. Celebrate victories and successes throughout the change. Use reinforcement and consequences for results
5Be a good coach and actively manage resistance  Anticipate and look for change resistance. Use resistance as fuel for dialogue, improvement, and insight
6Encourage career development  Advocate & Liaison Use growing change skills within your team as a job enrichment opportunity.  Get team members actively involved in the change to give them stretch goals
7Be results focusedBe clear on what success is for the change and why it is important for the team
Do people leaders in your organization engage in these key behaviors to drive and sustain organizational change? For organizational change to deliver on its intended benefits and goals we need to focus on people leaders. Teaching people leaders how to action the great behaviors when driving change, including reinforcement and consequences per the behavior cycle, is a step in the right direction. Contact us today to see how we can help drive action in your organization.