Is a change process ever over? How do you know when it is time to give up and move on to other things?
In the real world the change often just becomes mainstream, part of the way in which we do things, and other change processes come to dominate our lives. Occasionally we can become fixated by the change and pursue it to the death even when the return on the effort is marginal. This can be the case when people are given specific projects to complete with no clear exit strategy. So the purpose of this section is to explore the notion of completion.
There are a number of signs that a change process has reached the end of its lifetime.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s been successful – it could mean that it has just lost momentum and will need reviving to effect the desired change.
- People stop calling meetings
- People stop coming to meetings
- The change is now embedded in practice
- Other committees and groups have taken it on board as part of their agenda
- The original drivers no longer exist or the change process has been overtaken by other events
- Senior management support has evaporated
- Staff talk positively about it if there is talk of changing it further
- The resources have run out
- Staff are tired of the rhetoric
Things to do to aid completion:
- Go back to the earlier aims of the change process (if you can find them) and assess the extent to which they have been met
- Reinvent the change process (if the desired changes weren’t met but are still valid)
- Redesign the change process if the change has only been partially met
- Check whether any staff appointed to be involved in the change process need to be re-assigned?
- Check whether other staff affected by the change process now need to have their roles redefined to accommodate changes in working practices
Write a final report (and circulate widely) to indicate a formal end.
- Draw a formal line under the process by a paper to a formal meeting
- Let everyone know that the project has come to an end – caution: this can lead to people not taking the change seriously any longer and regressing into old ways
Evaluation is an essential part of this process whether or not the change achieved the desired outcome.
If you set SMART targets in the first place you should be well on your way to being able to say how well you met your aims but don’t expect that it will be easy to identify clear cause and effect relationships.
The complexity of measuring institutional transformation is discussed in a Jisc blog post entitled: “tracks in the snow: finding and making sense of the evidence for institutional transformation”.
If you achieved your aims – congratulations!
Transition curve – change management
Checklist for managing endings
- Have I studied the change carefully and identified who is likely to lose what including what I myself am likely to lose? Y/N
- Do I understand the subjective realities of these losses to the people who experience them, even when they seem like over-reaction to me? Y/N
- Have I acknowledged these losses with sympathy? Y/N
- Have I permitted people to grieve and publicly expressed my own sense of loss? Y/N
- Have I found ways to compensate people for their losses? Y/N
- Am I giving people accurate information and doing it again and again? Y/N
- Have I defined clearly what is over and what isn’t? Y/N
- Have I found ways to ‘mark the ending’? Y/N
- Am I being careful not to denigrate the past but, when possible, to find ways to honour it? Y/N
- Have I made a plan for giving people a piece of the past to take with them? Y/N
- Have I made it clear how the ending we are making is necessary to protect the continuity of the organisation or conditions on which the organisation depends? Y/N
- Is the ending we are making big enough to get the job done in one step? Y/N
Checklist for managing the neutral zone
- Have I done my best to normalise the neutral zone by explaining it is an uncomfortable time which, with careful attention, can be turned to everyone’s advantage? Y/N
- Have I redefined it by choosing a new and more affirmative metaphor with which to describe it? Y/N
- Have I reinforced that metaphor with training programmes, policy changes, and financial rewards for people to keep doing their jobs during the neutral zone Y/N
- Am I protecting people adequately from further changes? Y/N
- If I can’t protect them, am I clustering those changes meaningfully? Y/N
- Have I created the temporary policies and procedures that we need to get us through the neutral zone? Y/N
- Have I set short-range goals and checkpoints? Y/N
- Have I set realistic output objectives? Y/N
- Have I found what special training programs we need to deal successfully with the neutral zone? Y/N
- Have I found ways to keep people feeling that they still belong to the organisation and are valued by our part of it? And have I taken care that perks and other forms of ‘privilege’ are not undermining the solidarity of the group? Y/N
- Do I have a means of gathering feedback during the time in the neutral zone? Y/N
- Are my people willing to experiment and take risks in intelligently conceived ventures – or are we punishing all failures? Y/N
- Have I stepped back and taken stock of how things are being done in my part of the organisation? (This is worth doing both for its own sake and as a visible model for others similar behaviour) Y/N
- Have I provided others with opportunities to do the same thing? Have I provided them with the resources – facilitators, survey instruments and so on – that will help them do that? Y/N
- Have I seen to it that people build their skills in creative thinking and innovation? Y/N
- Have I encouraged experiment and seen to it that people are not punished for failing in intelligent efforts that did not pan out? Y/N
- Have I set an example by brainstorming many answers to my old problems – the ones that people say you just have to live with? Am I encouraging others to do the same? Y/N
- Am I regularly checking to see that I am not pushing for certainty and closure where it would be more conducive to creativity to live a little longer with – uncertainty and questions? Y/N
- Am I using my time in the neutral zone as an opportunity to replace old systems with integrated systems? Y/N
Checklist for managing new beginnings
- Am I distinguishing in my own mind and in my expectations of others, between the start, which can happen on a planned schedule, and the beginning, which will not? Y/N
- Do I accept the fact that people are going to be ambivalent towards the beginning I am trying to bring about? Y/N
- Have I taken care of the ending(s) and the neutral zone, or am I trying to make a beginning happen before it possibly can? Y/N
- Have I clarified and communicated the purpose of (the idea behind) the change? Y/N
- Have I created an effective picture of the change and found ways to communicate it effectively? Y/N
- Have I created a plan for bringing people through the three phases of transition – and distinguished it in my own mind from the change management? Y/N
- Have I helped people to discover as soon as possible the part that they will play in the new system – or how the new system will affect the part they play within the organisation? Y/N
- Have I ensured that everyone has a part to play in the transition management process and that they understand that part? Y/N
- Have I checked to see that policies, procedures and priorities are consistent with the new beginning I am trying to make so that inconsistencies are not sending a mixed message? Y/N
- Am I watching my own actions carefully to be sure that I am effectively modelling the attitudes and behaviours I am asking others to develop? Y/N
- Have I found ways, financial and non financial, to reward people for becoming the new people I am calling upon them to become? Y/N
- Have I built into my plans some occasions for quick success to help people rebuild their self-confidence and to build the image of the transition as successful? Y/N
- Have I found ways to symbolise the new identity – organisational and personal – that is emerging from this period of transition? Y/N
- Have I given people a piece of the transition to keep as a reminder of the difficult and rewarding journey we all took together? Y/N