Change Management: Celebrating the Small Victories

Written by: Lorrie Howard, Horizon Point Consulting 

Change is never easy. I remind myself of this daily as I navigate some major changes in my personal life. And my experience has been a great reminder of why change is often viewed so negatively. It’s the unknown. While they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, the thought of changing that pattern and not knowing what the result will be is often petrifying.

I recently started working with a client who is experiencing a great deal of change in their organization and as a result, is seeing a decline in employee morale. As part of the change management process, I have begun meeting with managers on a weekly basis. While part of the goal of these weekly meetings is to talk through issues or concerns they may have, the primary goal is to help them focus on the positive and then find ways to share those positives with employees.

I start each meeting with one simple (yet difficult) question. “What went well this week?”

The natural reaction to this question is to try to think of major accomplishments, but when experiencing change and a decline in morale as a result of that change, employees need steady reassurance that the change is having a positive impact on the organization. Without that reassurance, morale will continue to drop. By showing employees the positive impact change is having, even if a small impact, you’re easing their anxiety over the change and gaining their buy-in.

So, after watching the managers struggle during that first meeting to answer my question, I gave them some guidelines:

  • Think smaller. It doesn’t have to be a major accomplishment to be worth celebrating. Instead of waiting until the completion of a project to celebrate the work done, set milestones along the way and celebrate when you hit each mark.
  • Celebrate the now. If it’s progress today, celebrate it. Even if it falls apart tomorrow. Deal with tomorrow then, but today it’s a small victory and deserves recognition. And there’s always that chance that it won’t fall apart down the road.
  • Tie wins back to change. If the win was a result of a change that employees viewed negatively, acknowledge that the win was a positive result of that change.
  • Decide how to share with employees. Is it a win that everyone should know about, or just a specific department? And how will you communicate it to them in a way that will ensure they receive it?

Even though we have only met a few times so far, I have seen a shift in the managers as well. The first week they were hesitant to claim any wins, but during our most recent meeting, they walked into the meeting with a few to share.

So, ask yourself what went well this week and have you shared that with your employees?

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