How to Make Change Stick

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Making change stick is just as important as implementing the change itself. A recent conversation with a business owner about his process improvement effort revealed that he wasn’t able to realize the anticipated savings. A year later now, he found many changes are not reinforced and he has no way to quantify the impact.

Though with good intent, time and effort spent are wasted when you aren’t able to sustain the change or track the improvements. Keep these considerations in mind as you move forward with your change initiative.Though with good intent, time and effort spent are wasted when you aren’t able to sustain the change or track the improvements. Click To Tweet

  1. Accountability for sustainment—operations becomes the owner of the new procedures or technology upon implementation. Assuming that everything would fall into the right places, the plans for sustainment often receive little attention. The lackadaisical approach leaves an open door for reverting back to the old ways of conducting business. When time pressures and unanticipated needs arise, employees are quick to bypass the official processes and adopt adhoc approaches. Since no one is held accountable for enforcing that the new procedures are followed, the new ‘standard’ is pushed aside.
  2. Allocation of support resources—with multiple priorities, resources are quickly diverted to other initiatives as soon as the project is complete, leaving scant resources to support the new processes. Post-implementation support usually is under-budgeted for two reasons. First, lack of forethought on new dimensions of support required. Second, under-estimation of the support effort needed thinking that the new approach would be perfect. As a result, employees become frustrated when issues aren’t addressed promptly, leading to a loss of trust in the new approach. This could turn any initial enthusiasm into rejection quickly.
  3. Benefit realization monitoring—in order to fine-tune the improvement, there is no other way to do so without monitoring the benefits achieved. Being able to report on progress ensures that the momentum is not lost. For rollouts that are to be phased over a period of time, the monitoring provides evidence that things are on the right track. It also sends an excellent message to cajole those who sit on the fence about the change. Employees become more engaged and it is a morale booster.

Successful completion of a change initiative marks the beginning of the results realization journey. You need to devote adequate attention, resources, and discipline to ensure that the change stick. Otherwise, not only you feel disappointed, your employees feel discouraged when they see no gain from the commitment.


  1. Hi Connie, This is a great point, and I often see savings evaporate with time, because there is little to no accountability for post-implementation, as you say. This problem may actually start earlier in the project life cycle–if management engagement is perfunctory or many of those who live in the process were not very involved in the change effort. If the employees are the ones who believe “this is the new process they created” (perhaps facilitated by a LSS Black Belt), there is more likelihood the changes stick as well. But the monitoring and reporting of benefits realized is paramount for sustained performance.

    • Thanks for your comment. The monitoring and reporting provide the reality check and opportunities to refine the solution. Without formalizing the approach, the savings will evaporate with time.

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