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Give your change process a chance

One theme that challenges organisations committed to making significant changes, such as the introduction of a coaching culture, is perseverance.  Almost without exception the leaders we have interviewed have commented on the need to stick with the changes over the long-term to get the business benefits.

Significant changes don’t happen over the course of a few weeks or months. Jim Collins talks about the ‘flywheel effect’ in his book Good to Great, where over a period of time the effect of a multitude of little things  eventually accumulates to create a breakthrough. Not one of the individual elements will cause the desired level of change to happen on its own, the power is in the combination of them all.

The Seven Year Effect

Collins’ research indicates that it takes around 7 years for a significant breakthrough to happen. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there is no change in the 7 years leading up to the significant change but it does mean that the full impact of the change will not be felt or fully visible for years after the process begins.

You might find this depressing and in a way it is. How many times do we hear of leaders who abandon a change initiative and look for another ‘quick fix’ in the belief that the change isn’t having the effect that they want at the speed they would like.

Evolution, not revolution

But change isn’t like that. It takes time for people to understand what’s intended, to buy into the need to change, to understand a new way of working and to become comfortable with it.

Making successful change is a bit like doing a number of things 1% better each day rather than trying to do any one thing 100% better. It’s about evolution rather than revolution.

The chances are that many of the systems and processes that organisations already have are ‘good enough’. What’s missing is the perseverance to make them work properly. Sometimes it seems easier to initiate a new series of changes than to keep working at initiatives that just need more time and attention to make them really sing.

So the next time you are tempted to chuck it all in and start again because it’s not working – stop. Take a step back and have a good look to see if perseverance and focus might actually be all that’s needed to get the results you want.


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