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Making Sure Your ITSM Improvement Sticks


One of the aspects of organizational change management that is often missed or neglected is the need to reinforce the reasons for making a particular change or improvement.

Without reinforcement, people can revert back to the old ways of working and not demonstrate the new behaviours that you wished to achieve with your improvement.

I often tell people that a project ‘installs’ a change but organizational change management (OCM) actually ‘implements’ the change. That is, OCM through reinforcement is the activity that embeds the change into the fabric of the organization so that it becomes business as usual. It becomes part of the organization’s DNA.

Reinforcement of change should be continually applied throughout the project or ITSM improvement initiative.

So how do we reinforce a change?

Gather the data

Firstly we need to gather data. This can be done by collecting performance metrics that will indicate if new processes, roles or technology have been adopted and the new desired behaviours are being exhibited.

Data can also be collected from surveys, performance reports, system usage, observations, assessments, team meetings, one-on-one conversations, social media channels, intranet forms, and even by listening to the water cooler conversations.

These could be a combination of formal and informal approaches e.g. a formal approach would be facilitated and structured such as team meetings whereas an informal approach would be feedback gathered by word of mouth.

Feedback will need to be obtained from everyone impacted by the change to determine the correct reinforcement tactics to be used.

Find the gaps

Based on the data collected, you can determine where the resistance to the change is coming from. This is where root cause analysis is a useful technique. Keep asking the question ‘Why?’ to get to the root cause.

The root causes could be a lack of awareness of the need to change or a lack of education and training. Resistance could come from one or two people, or it could be widespread across the organisation.

A useful model for identifying sources and causes of resistance is the Prosci ADKAR® model. More information on ADKAR can be found here.

Bridge the gaps

Once the sources and causes of resistance have been identified, corrective actions can be taken to bridge the gaps.

These may include improved communication, improved incentives or strengthened consequences, education and training, personal coaching plans, and reward systems to reinforce the change.

It can also be powerful to make it more difficult to not adopt the change through the use of consequences. Make it more difficult to return to the previous state before the change.

Techniques to bridge the gap may include:

  • Listening and understanding the objectives so that any misconceptions about the change can be corrected
  • Creating a sense of urgency about the change – what will it mean if we don’t change?
  • Remove barriers to the change e.g. a person has been given a new role which means a change in location and a longer drive to work. Give this person the option to work from home for 2 or 3 days a week
  • Tell stories to show the benefits of the change in a real and tangible way
  • Convert the strongest and loudest resistors. The strongest opponents can become the strongest and loudest advocates and this can have a powerful influence on other people

Everyone is different

You cannot use ONE reinforcement tactic. You need to understand the needs of the individuals. This is often called the ‘frame of reference’.

  • Involve everyone identified as resistant to the change in determining meaningful reinforcements.
    What might motivate one person may not motivate the next. You cannot use a broad brush
  • Implement and celebrate success

Once corrective actions are identified, they can be implemented. Sponsors and managers should be enabled to take these corrective actions and this may involve coaching and providing appropriate tools.

Identify and celebrate success and make these celebrations widely visible to reinforce the change.

Recognise the individuals and groups who have contributed to the success of the improvement initiative and again make this public knowledge.

These do not have to be big successes – celebrate the small staff as well as the achievement of major milestones.

Final note

People are not motivated to change just because an ITSM improvement initiative makes sense.

Reinforcement cannot be ignored if the improvement initiative is to be a success.

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