STEP 6: Generating Short-term Wins
Creating visible, unambiguous success as soon as possible
For leaders in the middle of a long-term change effort, short-term wins are essential. Running a change effort without attention to short-term performance is extremely risky. The Guiding Coalition becomes a critical force in identifying significant improvements that can happen between six and 18 months. Getting these wins helps ensure the overall change initiative’s success. Research shows that companies that experience significant short-term wins by fourteen and twenty-six months after the change initiative begins are much more likely to complete the transformation.
Realizing these improvements is a challenge. In any change initiative, agendas get delayed, there is a desire to ensure that customers are not affected, political forces are at work – all of which slow the ability to perform as promised. However, short-term wins are essential.
To ensure success, short term wins must be both visible and unambiguous. The wins must also be clearly related to the change effort. Such wins provide evidence that the sacrifices that people are making are paying off. This increases the sense of urgency and the optimism of those who are making the effort to change. These wins also serve to reward the change agents by providing positive feedback that boosts morale and motivation. The wins also serve the practical purpose of helping to fine tune the vision and the strategies. The guiding coalition gets important information that allows them to course-correct.
Short-term wins also tend to undermine the credibility of cynics and self-serving resistors. Clear improvements in performance make it difficult for people to block the needed change. Likewise, these wins will garner critical support from those higher than the folks leading the change (bosses, board, and shareholders). Finally, short-term wins have a way of building momentum that turns neutral people into supporters, and reluctant supporters into active helpers.
Planning not Praying
Short-term wins rarely simply happen. They are usually the result of careful planning and effort. Why don’t people plan for these? Often they are overwhelmed with the tasks of the change effort and simply take their eye off this particular ball. In other cases, people don’t even try because they believe that you can’t produce major change and short-term performance results. Finally, the lack of short-term wins can often be traced back to insufficient management expertise on the Guiding Coalition or a lack of commitment by key managers to the change initiative.
Pressure to Perform
Clearly the need to get short-term wins adds a great deal of pressure to an organization in the midst of a transformation effort. However, when done skillfully, the need to create short-wins can actually increase the sense of true urgency and actually accomplishing these goals does much to cement the change initiative.
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