Magazine article Policy & Practice

Sustainability of Change

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Sustainability of Change

Article excerpt

Years of experience facilitating and supporting continuous improvement efforts across the country have led us to many lessons learned about good practices for change management. Most, if not all, of these lessons can be categorized under the heading of "sustainability."

We all generally know what sustainable things look like. They enjoy support and need resources over time. People feel a sense of ownership and accountability for them. They work as expected and get the desired results. They become natural, intuitive, and "a way of doing business." But how do those responsible for sustainable implementation ensure it?

When we have seen initiatives stall or fail to achieve their desired impact, the root cause is often due to lack of consideration and planning for what we would call the "drivers of sustainability" at the beginning of a continuous improvement effort. The following are "drivers of sustainability" that we have learned support successful ongoing impact of initiatives toward their desired outcomes:

Alignment to an agency's clear mission, vision, values, and desired outcomes. Any continuous improvement effort should be easily connected to the agency's mission to answer the question, "Why are we doing this?" If there is not a clear line of sight to how the initiative supports the agency's goals the effort will not (and probably should not) survive.

The effort involves and empowers those whose expertise and buy in is needed. Engaging those who are most affected by a change, seeking their input and ongoing feedback, strengthens their buy in and ongoing support. Ignoring those voices or assuming their input is not valuable surely will lead to staff resistance or at least passivity during implementation. Constructive input from frontline staff, partners, clients, and stakeholders for change planning efforts also improves the related communication and implementation efforts by increasing the level of expertise.

Plans demonstrate connection to other already well-sustained efforts. Change plans that are viewed as continuous improvements based on lessons learned from current efforts are typically better received than plans that appear to be, or in fact are, disconnected from current efforts where staff is already engaged. Building on initiatives that have been positively affecting outcomes--in other words, building on your strengths--is a recipe for success and sustainability.

Address the core operation while implementing new processes in a systematic way. New initiatives implemented in an organization that has problems with role clarity, basic communication, a lack of a culture of accountability, or low trust have limited ability to succeed even with the best planning and implementation efforts. …

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