Building on the theme of change management and rewards from my last post, Knowledge @ Wharton has been running a series on business leader reaction to change and the recession. In one article, BP executive Fiona MacLeod called the corporate world out for its “addiction to serial change management programmes that consume massive resources but ultimately fail to solve the problems they aim to address.”

Why does this addiction develop? Because new leaders often want the “big splash” of the initiative, but have no plan for the follow-through, employees do not understand why the change is needed, and ownership of the process is given to external consultants and not internal leaders.

MacLeod’s steps to overcome this “addiction to change and fully engage leaders and employees in the process of creating change and sustaining it over time” are:

• Tell a good story so employees understand the case for change, including what the future will look like after the change is complete and why that is better than today

• Set clear steps to implement the change, follow through on each and measure the results

• Get leaders committed and involved by putting written contracts in performance reviews – KPIs or MBOs

Change the company culture to reward the desired behaviour It’s this last point that is most critical for true, long-term change. As MacLeod notes: “Changing the culture to reward the desired behaviour is critical to success. Make heroes of day-to-day deliverers, not those who make the biggest splash. You reward people on how they treat the customer, how they make decisions, how they simplify the business….. And crucially, all of this has to be done in the spirit of open communication and respect…. If [people are] uncertain and they don't feel respected, the change will never stick. Celebrating success, recognising achievement and making people feel good about the business were important tools for sustaining momentum. Importantly, it's as much — if not more — about the recognition of your peers than it is about financial rewards."

I offered these five steps to effective positive behavioural and culture change. What have you tried in change management that has worked for you? Or are you a “change addict” in love with the big slash but without the wherewithal to own the process and follow through on the steps to success?

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