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Sustainment Plan: Getting the Change to Stick

The ultimate measure in assessing the success of your change management plan is simple – have people adopted the change and are they actively owning its continued practice? You can do all the stakeholder/impact analyses and communicating/training you want, but in the end, if your teams don’t adopt and continue to do whatever new behaviors are required, then your change management efforts have failed.

Sustainment planning, like many aspects of change management, should be started way before the deployment of a process change or new system. (Organizational changes generally stick because individual employees usually don’t have a choice to opt in or out of a new organizational structure.) To be efficient, you can integrate sustainment planning with other change management activities like stakeholder analysis, training and monitoring/surveys.

Bottom line, successful sustainment of a process or systems change relies on identifying individuals within the business who can provide leadership to the impacted team and follow up to reinforce behaviors that will become “business as usual” over time.

Here’s a quick checklist of activities you can do to help a change stick:

  • Identify people on the impacted team who are critical influencers (often one of your key stakeholders)

  • Build relationships with those people and ask them personally to spearhead the implementation and continued practice of the new process or system

  • Ask them to make sure to talk about the change within their team and make periodic updates during team meetings (leveraging them as change agents)

  • Define metrics for awareness, understanding, adoption and ownership and field surveys to understand how well your change management strategies are working. Especially with the ownership piece, ask your critical influencers to hold regular check-ins to make sure people continue to do the work they were trained to do. No backsliding!

  • If there are questions, confusion or concern, raise those issues with the project leader and executive sponsor. Determine if additional training is needed.

  • Make sure, especially with systems changes, that people are logging in and using the new tool. If not, follow up with the non-users and ask why.

  • Recognize and appreciate the desired behavior publicly so your teams recognize what good looks like and know that others are monitoring their behavior.

Sustainment is the last part of the change management journey, but in many ways, it’s the most critical. If an initiative is merely launched and there’s no follow up, intended business benefits may not be fully realized or they may erode as old behaviors return. It’s important to know that the people running the day-to-day business are equipped and motivated to keep on keeping on, well after the project team has disbanded.


Recognizing Progress
Change Management: Definition and Benefits

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