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The 8 Levers of Change

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Leading Successful ChangeIn their book, Leading Successful Change: 8 Keys to Making Change Work, Gregory P. Shea and Cassie A. Solomon talk about the 8 things that you should be targeting if you want the change management effort on your project to stick.

They say that if your project isn’t addressing at least 4 of these elements, then the change is doomed to fail. People will slip back into their old ways.

Moving any one of these 8 Levers of Change will alter the work environment in specific ways and send a different set of cues to those who inhabit that environment,” write Shea and Solomon. “Change enough levers enough for the owners of the behaviour to perceive that the time has come to adapt to a new set of environmental cues, indeed to what qualifies as a new environment.

So what are the things that you should be looking out for on your projects? Here are their 8 levers of change.

1. Organisation

The organisation element covers how things are structured in the company. What is managed centrally and what is decentralised? An example would be whether you have project managers spread across different departments or a central Project Management Office. If they are split, how will that help or hinder you drive through change on your project?

Organisations can also be split by geography or division and this could have an impact on your ability to successfully implement change. Is there a strong emphasis on cross-functional teams or do you see most people working in silos?

Ideally, your project should consider redesigning the organisation chart if that would make the outcome more successful. You could also look at what involvement you need from other teams and how you will get this if it involves breaking down geographic barriers or silos between departments.

2. Workplace design

Workplace design is how the layout of the work environment affects the people working there. I once did a one-off study on business process improvement for a leadership institute and one of the things that was raised when I was interviewing the Marketing team was how much more time they felt they could save if they had their own fax machine instead of having to walk to a communal machine. This was a really easy thing to fix, and would have resulted in the staff feeling listened to, with the subsequent increase in morale.

Having said that, Shea and Solomon argue that putting things in communal areas and closer together helps people work together as it encourages interaction. Will moving equipment or people around help you embed the change more effectively? How can technology help you achieve the same thing if you can’t physically move the people? Social media is a tool for project managers to consider in this situation.

3. Tasks

This is pretty straightforward. What tasks are required in the new world? How will people’s jobs change? Will your project result in new work processes? Consider how standardising processes or using checklists could help you embed the change more effectively.

4. People

Shea and Solomon feel that change projects can be successful without having to recruit a whole lot of new people. If you provide adequate training, coaching, and combine that with good leadership, you can get the existing staff up to the level that they need to be to work effectively in the new world.

Consider what new skills they will need, and what values they will need to demonstrate once your project is complete. If you recruiting, does your recruiting practice have to change to get people who will fit with the new work environment?

5. Rewards

You can’t talk about change without talking about how you will motivate people to change their behaviour, and rewards are a big part of that. Will your factor in some reward mechanisms into your project? You could consider what you can offer people who do make the change, such as relocation allowance if you are asking them to move offices, or car parking vouchers.

Reward works both ways and you should also consider, along with the business experts on your project team, what you will be able to do if people choose not to change their behaviours. There should be some kind of sanction in place for people who don’t contribute effectively in the new world.

However, you have to be careful with rewards. You don’t want them to cancel out the good work being done elsewhere on the change project. For example, if you choose to reward the best performing team with a cash bonus, this may increase rivalry and keep those silos entrenched.

6. Measurement

Measurement is a form of communication. What do you want to measure and, more importantly, what should you measure? What will you do with the data when it is collected?

Measurements are something that may not be so easy to do during the project, but you can at least work with the business or operational team and check that they have made provision to measure the success of the change on an ongoing basis.

7. Information distribution

Information distribution covers how you will get information to people when the change project is implemented. This can cover a number of areas:

  • Praise for a job well done
  • Performance feedback (perhaps for a job done less well)
  • Retrospective information
  • Information people need to do their jobs

Consider what information people will need once the change is embedded. What should they be getting that will reinforce the desired behaviour? What will you distribute, to whom, when?

8. Decision allocation

Where employees fit in process of making decisions can influence their behaviour. Generally, the closer to the action the decision is taken, the better. Will your project change where decisions are made and if so how will you support that? People may need training or some explanation about where their boundaries are now. A formal decision-making structure could help and being clear about roles and responsibilities in the new work environment certainly will.

Does your project address at least 4 of these elements?

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK and the award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.


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