Stage 2. Effort
With your Edict established, the change initiative gains momentum. The focus shifts from why to how. A plan is developed, tasks are assigned, new procedures are established, and systems are put into place to support the new approaches. The Effort stage is evidenced by a surge of activity. Most actions at this stage are prescribed, although they are ideally developed through collaboration--which is a critical outcome you want. Change is more likely to happen if colleagues are working together to make it happen.
This stage is also where change initiatives usually stall. Just as you are beginning to see change occurring, the force of the Edict weakens. Your progress, in fact, can work against you as the sense of urgency begins to fade (plus other urgent matters have typically intervened). It's important to keep the Edict alive at this critical juncture. In some cases, it may evolve into a different set of compelling circumstances. In others, you may need to produce new evidence that your Edict is still valid. Whatever the case, you need to keep pushing to keep change moving forward--until you get a boost from the next stage of the process.
A vital milestone in your change initiative is when people begin to move beyond the necessity of change to appreciating the value of change. Yes, progress can mute the power of the Edict, but hopefully it also is producing positive outcomes. Your colleagues start to see the benefits of the changes you're making. These benefits must be realized at the personal level, not just at the corporate or business unit level. As they become evident, the change is increasingly seen as strategic. This hopefully helps generate enough momentum to ensure the continuation of the change effort.
The new ways of doing things are now viewed in a positive light by the "functional majority" (not a simple majority, but a majority of the people who most influence group behavior). The new ways now constitute a corporate Ethic about how things should be done. While this is a necessary milestone, there is still another you must reach to ensure the change is sustainable over the long term.
Stage 4. Ethos
In order to complete the change process, you need to move beyond mere agreement that it is necessary and good. It must become embedded in your culture, "the way things are done around here." Now the change shifts from being externally motivated to being internally motivated. It's moved from the head to the heart. It's no longer just what you do; it's who you are. It's still hard work, but people wouldn't accept the alternative. The change has become characteristic, the result of a significant cultural change.
The importance of culture in change efforts is well established both in research and experience. You can shortcut the change process somewhat if you can anchor the change in some facet of your existing culture. The better the desired change fits within that culture, the easier the change effort. But organizational change often involves a significant cultural change; that's where the hard work really comes from. But once you've reached the Ethos stage, all the effort will have been worth it.
In my next post, I'll illustrate the four stages of change in a real-life example of a successful change initiative.