Making people change their behaviour or work patterns is hard (hello ex-smokers!), especially with limited budgets and resources. The last part of the change process, “making it stick” is often the one that gets neglected. The change project seems finished. If it went well everyone wants to end on a high, if it didn’t they want to move on quickly. Regardless, the team passes onto something else and the change is often left fend for itself.

It’s a bit like redecorating a room. You went through a challenging process where the room looked like a tip and people were inconvenienced in order to give people a great-looking new space.

If you did you preparation well, the redecoration itself will be durable: the paint won’t bubble and the wallpaper won’t peel. The biggest challenge is whether people will look after their new space, once you’ve left. Will they slip into the old habits that made the space a mess again?

So how do you make change stick so improvements become permanent?  It’s not easy but here are a few “sticky tips” to help the process.

1) Engaging reminders

Things like posters and post cards can work, but only if they’re visually appealing and people want to put them up and look at them. Invest in some decent design and fun messaging. Messages shouldn’t be didactic, but inspire people and remind remind them in subtle ways. Reminder merchandise can be risky: it need to be that perfect combination of relevance (something they actually use) and fun (something they can’t help playing with).

2) The checklist

Never underestimate the power of a good checklist early in the process. It’s a handy reference guide to the new way of doing things without resorting to a full manual, or how to guide and it’s vital in the early stages. Get it designed properly so it’s attractive and easy to read.

3) Celebrate the wins

A month, three months, six months, a year down the track, if there are figures on what the change has achieved, make sure to share them. It reminds people of ongoing achievement: costs saved, people helped, positive environmental impacts. These can be done verbally in team meetings, or through fun infographics. It brings the change back into the present and stops it being “something we did last quarter”.

4) Ask for feedback

Ask people how the change is going, what they’ve found difficult to maintain, what’s been easy, what’s surprised them, what benefits they’ve noticed. Apart from providing useful information for you, and opportunities for refinement,  it gets people to think about the change implemented and reminds them to continue.

5) Remember when… anniversaries

There’s a reason Facebook introduced their “this time X years ago” posts. People like being reminded how far they’ve come. A year or six months after your change program, mark the anniversary with a reminder of how difficult or frustrating things used to be.

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