Completing a transition or process is the purpose of change management. How you finish is at least as valuable as how you started.
Wrapping up the change process is the exciting reward for days, months, even years of hard work. The endgame of change management is just as important as the early planning stages. Make sure you’ve met your goals, so you can begin the next process with the same fresh energy you started the last one.
Here’s how you know when you’ve arrived.
Know when you’re actually finished.
Success and buy-in are great measures of the success of a change process…but is it still a win if the new process works, yet only half of the department buys in?
Take a good look at what has worked and where you had problems. Make sure what worked really worked and that nothing was swept under the rug. Problems that “disappear” without explanation have a nasty habit of remaining unresolved, only to return after the best time to address them has long passed.
Hold a post-operation meeting. Then hold another one.
Now that your major bugs have been exterminated, and productivity is beginning to return to pre-change levels, you may be tempted to ride off into the sunset, declaring your work here is done.
Two meetings, in fact. Yes, that may seem redundant. Don’t worry—it is.
The first post-operation meeting should set your stakeholders at ease: It gives your team the all-clear that the lion’s share of the work is completed.
However, when the majority of the work is done, your team might not initially be a reliable source of after-issue feedback. Fatigue might be setting in, and they need the room to be honest. In addition, some people might just want to give only positive feedback just to keep you happy…while others might just want to see you go.
Therefore, the second meeting should happen a short time later, when your change agents are no longer under pressure to make major adjustments. They’re growing used to the new normal, and they’re going to pay closer attention to the day-to-day effects of the changes, as well as the problems they might not have noticed before.
There is no more accurate or timely resource for spotting problems than the people who are going to need the new system or process to work flawlessly. It’s time to live up to the promises you made to get buy-in in the first place and make sure your work and word remain impeccable.
Don’t be afraid to question successes.
If your success is as fragile as a Jenga tower, it can hardly be called a success at all. Encourage questions—and be prepared to provide bulletproof answers. Yes, you’ve successfully met all of your goals and professional expectations, but did you break the tape with time to spare or barely squeak by on a technicality?
The endgame should be that, the end. Not the brand new beginning of the million other problems your “success” has created.
Does your team now suffer burnout because of the haphazard manner you and they have achieved their expected goals? Making success successful should be a persistent goal of yours.
Make notes for the next change.
Honesty is a requirement for a successful change process. The more you know, the more effective the changes will be–and how valuable your leadership is. Now that the team sees the change more completely, they’re going to have new questions and new suggestions moving forward.
Sure, the broad strokes are done, but there might be some additional tweaks or ideas you hadn’t thought of. Unless you’re micromanaging every last detail, the stakeholders who have been with you every step of the way are going to offer you a once-in-a-change-process moment to look at the whole project with a view you didn’t have before.
Even if you don’t use their ideas as you move forward, you should keep them in mind. They could be offering solutions to problems you don’t have yet or establishing the parameters for a contingency you hadn’t considered. These could be great tools for tomorrow, even if they aren’t useful today.
Declare a victory.
You’ve met your goals and your colleagues in management, as well as your reports, agree. Ring bells, blow whistles (as appropriate). Providing a solid moment of “Win!” does as much for morale as all the smaller successes along the way.
Take a good long look at the team, thank and congratulate them all—as a group and individually. The smallest contribution was still contributive. You’re not just thanking them for their patience, late nights, and hard work, you’re building buy-in, trust, and good will for tomorrow. Go ahead and declare a victory, then celebrate it, because success is building long-standing solutions upon which greater successes can be built.
Success should be measured for its resilience, not just for its short-term effects. Not temporary fixes requiring replacement in panic-inducing short order. You might not be building the Colosseum, but make sure you’re not just pitching a tent, either.