How do you know your change is sticking?
Without some sort of evaluation strategy, you don’t. Of course, you can tell a lot by just paying attention. Are people consistently doing things the new way? Are they using the new language, procedures, and processes? Are there fewer complaints about the change? In short, is the change becoming routine?
By combining observation with formal evaluation methods such as surveys, focus groups, and outcomes measurement, you can generate qualitative and quantitative data to assess the change. The next step is to tell the story in a compelling way.
In their book Made to Stick, Chip Heath and Dan Heath identified six strategies that create memorable ideas. These strategies can be useful in helping leaders talk about a change.
- Make it simple, and make it profound. What is the core of your message? The authors say that it must be short, but it should be a proverb, not a sound bite.
- Make it unexpected. What happened that can engage your audience’s interest and curiosity?
- Make it concrete. Don’t talk about the change in abstract terms, paint a specific picture that people will remember.
- Make it credible. Help readers assess the change for themselves. Asking “How long did you spend pulling reports this week compared to a year ago?” is more effective than saying “We reduced the average report-generation time by 50%.”
- Tap into people’s emotions. People are wired to care about ideas that tap into their feelings. Saying “last night one of our students spent the night sleeping in his car before final exams” is more compelling than saying “the number of students below the poverty level rose by 30% in the past 5 years.”
- Tell stories. What happened in the change that made a difference? How can people take ownership and see themselves in the change?
Think back to some powerful change messages you’ve heard. What did the leaders do to make it memorable?
Dee Anne Bonebright