One of the major challenges in change initiatives, whether small or large in impact, is to deal with resistance amongst managers and employees. Even though resistance to change is a natural human phenomenon, resistance typically hinders progress and subsequently alignment to the new direction – it therefore needs to be addressed. One of the ways to indirectly address resistance is to generate sufficient quick wins fast enough to diffuse cynicism, pessimism and scepticism. If the successes are visible, unambiguous and speak to what people deeply care about, momentum is built. John Kotter (The Heart of Change) reinforces this concept when he notes: “In successful change efforts, empowered people create short-term wins – victories that nourish faith in the change effort, emotionally reward the hard workers, keep the critics at bay and build momentum”. “Quick wins” seem to accelerate change readiness and acceptance.
In change efforts that really work, an empowered group of managers and employees are very selective in how they spend their time. They focus initially on activities where they can quickly gain unambiguous, visible and meaningful achievements. These quick wins are essential and, Kotter notes, serve four important purposes:
- Wins provide feedback to change leaders about the validity of their visions and strategies
- Wins give those working hard to achieve a vision a pat on the back, an emotional uplift
- Wins build faith in the effort, attracting those who are not yet actively helping
- Wins take power away from the cynics
Without these successes, even though small, change seldom translates into desired results and the cynics find a platform, regardless of the excellence of the vision and how needed the changes. With these successes, however, the opposite occurs: a growing sense of optimism, an increase in energy and a firmer belief in the change.
Involve everyone in suggesting where the quick wins should originate and get them evaluating whether or not they will be meaningful. Some of the questions that leaders could discuss with all employees are as follows:
- How long will this activity realistically take to get done? (It needs to be quick – not more than a couple of months in duration)
- How much energy will the activity require and at what cost from a resource perspective?
- How unambiguous and how visible will it be?
- Will this win be seen to be a meaningful one? Who will see it as meaningful and how powerful are these people?
In change initiatives, quick win projects should be established and executed well. Achieving quick wins enthuses employees, brings new light to pessimists, mollifies the cynics and accelerates the change effort.