Reinforcement is critical to the success of all initiatives because people have a natural tendency to revert back to what they know and are comfortable with.
Yet, because reinforcement steps come later in the change process, they are often neglected. We asked research participants the following questions to understand if reinforcement is getting the attention that it deserves, who is responsible for it, and what methods change management practitioners are using to sustain change:
Here is what we found:
Participants in our Best Practices in Change Management research were asked if reinforcement and sustainment activities were planned for as part of their projects. Sixty-one percent of participants planned for these activities.
Those who planned for reinforcement and sustainment reported greater success rates on their projects. The figure below shows that 61% of participants who planned for reinforcement or sustainment activities met or exceeded project objectives, compared to only 48% of participants that did not plan for reinforcement.
Participants were also asked if project resources were allocated to the reinforcement and sustainment activities. Only 44% reported that resources were allocated to this effort.
Participants who allocated resources to reinforcement and sustainment activities reported greater success rates on their projects. The figure below shows that 60% of participants who allocated resources to reinforcement and sustainment activities met or exceeded project objectives, compared to 53% of those who did not allocate resources to reinforcement.
Participants identified who was responsible for the reinforcement and sustainment activities on their change initiative. Nearly half of participants said it was the leader or manager of the given impacted group. Just less than 40% reported that the change management resource or team was responsible for this effort. Participants were able to select multiple roles, resulting in a total of more than 100%.
From a change management perspective, reinforcement can be difficult because once a change is finished, we are often moving straight onto the next change. It takes concerted effort and time to make sure a change "sticks," and given the scarce resources and change saturation that many organizations face, reinforcement efforts can often fall short. We see this scenario playing out in the data. A little more than half of organizations are planning for reinforcement and sustainment activities, but fewer than half are dedicating resources to this effort. The data is clear: organizations that are planning and resourcing for reinforcement are more likely to meet or exceed project objectives than organizations that neglect this critical step in the change process.