Many studies show that the majority of significant transformation efforts fail. Whether it's the implementation of a new quality control system, an improved compensation model, entering new markets or a complete post-merger re-engineering of an organization, establishing and rewarding quick wins will keep the team energized.
It gives them something tangible and validates that the "new way of doing things" is rooted in the culture and transformation vision. Organizational change takes time and must involve the majority - if not all - of the people in the organization in some manner. But most people won't lace up their boots and head out on the long march unless they know there are more near-term strategic achievable goals set along the path to ultimate victory.
I can illustrate this by reflecting back to my time in the early stages of Navy SEAL training - or BUD/s (Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL). The key for any student to successfully navigate this course is to not obsess over the long-term goal of graduating but dealing with the immediate obstacles in front of you. You have to eat the elephant one bite at a time.
The commitment for creating short-term wins must be by design and led by the guiding coalition - or transformation task force. The leadership team can't sit back and passively hope for quick wins, they have to be created. And a clear path to their achievement must be identified.
Change management efforts take a long time and if quick wins are not established within six to twelve months, complacency starts to set in allowing old habits to re-emerge. Resiliency is key and can be fueled by a well-planned rewards system.
One of my clients realized they needed a complete operations overhaul which meant new software, new processes, and a completely new department. They knew even seemingly simple steps like selecting a new project management system would take time. And even that effort was underestimated. They admittedly missed a key opportunity to establish a very tangible milestone. And when they did finally get this step completed, belief in the mission had already diminished and no "win" was declared nor rewarded.
Quick wins provide the opportunity for targeted storytelling - an important ongoing aspect of communication during times of change. When one of the elements of the transformation mission is assigned to a team or team member, they must be held accountable, but more importantly they must be publicly rewarded when they succeed.
This aids in everyone's ability to start really visualizing what winning looks like. What the behaviors are that will be needed to achieve mission success. Then others begin to change their behavior and the transformation effort slowly begins to take root in the culture. And then the statement "that's the way we do things around here" takes on a whole new meaning.
Transformation efforts aren't easy and there are always plenty of inertia fighting against an organization. Establishing quick wins keeps the team engaged and prevents "battlefield" fatigue!