Organisational development

Sustainable change

The six steps to sustainable change

Change is good, but never easy. Change is however the only constant when you work in Business Transformation projects, like we do at Quintop. After all, it is our purpose to make people and organisations more successful by delivering HR Transformation with passion, quality and a hands-on mentality. Quintop partner Wilco Bontenbal and Senior Consultant Sanne Chateau created a six-step plan to make sustainable change a reality, instead of just a theory.

Change is not as scary as some might think, according to Wilco: ‘’It seems hard because people crave what they already know, but that does not mean that people aren’t willing to change. Good guidance and a clear communicated vision are essential to achieve success.” Easier said than done, you might think. ‘’Due to the years of experience in the field, we can make the change manageable, without damage and always with the focus to make it sustainable. After all, you want to move forward’’, Sanne explains.

But how do we that? To make our lives, and the lives of the client, a little easier, we put the Quintop way of working in six practical steps. At Quintop we use these six steps to guide our clients to what sometimes seems like an impossible task. Because where do you start? And how do you deal with resistance? Follow these six steps:

1. Motivation

Starting point is the wish or need to change something in the current ways of working.

The best and most compelling way to get people on board of a change is to ensure everyone knows why the change needs to happen.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is not going well today and what harm does it do to our business? Can we live with this harm, or could it do (serious) damage?
  • Where is business lost and/or where is (unnecessary) frustration in processes or outcomes?
  • Where do you see opportunities for the business and/or ways of working?

Focus on what really needs to change, and try not to change too many things at the same time.


2. Vision

Create a compelling vision for change. Write your change story and communicate it.

After realising why there’s a need to change, it is important to create and define your vision. Start with the entire story, and focus on the following aspects:

  • Why are you doing what you’re doing?
  • What outcomes do you envision?
  • Ensure employees understand the different aspects of the change and how they link together (if applicable).
  • Give employees enough time to understand and get on board.

Choose well how you bring on board your organisation. Share the vision and storyline with leadership, people managers and employees. Don’t forget that by the time you as Leadership have created the compelling story and are on board, (people) managers and employees hear it for the first time and might need some time to get on board. So, remember you need to have ‘one why’ and ‘numerous what’s’.

Avoid fancy corporate language but choose words and definitions everyone understands. Focus on what actually changes for the “feet on the street”, the people doing the actual work on a day-to-day basis.


3. Translate

Translate your vision to concrete objectives and expectations together with your employees.

There’s nothing like participation to get people along with change(s). After creating a clear vision, it’s important to set objectives on how to realise your vision. The vision is created top-down by the management. For making it practical and comprehensive, include and engage your employees. The objectives are best set bottom-up.

To help employees translating the vision to objectives focus on the actual work they do:

  • How does this work in practice?
  • What would help you in your day-to-day life?
  • What could make the actual difference in efficiency or progress in your daily work?
  • Make it SMART!

See your employees as your most valuable source of information. They know what’s going on!


4. Governance

Ensure structure and clear (change) governance. Have a guiding coalition to lead people through the change: they need time, support, and commitment from all stakeholders.

To ensure the right governance and structure:

  • Install a team consisting of different layers of the management organisation, that truly believes in this change and have the authority to carry it out.
  • Enable the leading coalition to carry out the message and lead people through the change: they need time and support.
  • Ensure you have a project team in place, with the right resources to manage the (different) change(s).
  • Build or increase the knowledge and skills within the organisation that are needed to go through the change and to embed the new normal.

Think well about the governance and stick to it, allow no exceptions to this structure for credibility.


5. Lead

Empower employees to go through the change. Make sure the leaders create the right culture and lead and coach employees to fit into the desired future state.

Leaders are always important within an organisation. When going through a change, this becomes even more apparent. Create the right environment for leaders and employees to guide their teams through changes:

  • Give them the accountability and responsibility needed to lead.
  • Hold them accountable and responsible for their actions.
  • Set guidelines for behaviour: both the positive behaviours you encourage, as the negative behaviours you don’t accept (anymore).
  • Communicate the expected behaviours and ensure there are consequences, both positive and negative, for those who show it. This is crucial for credibility within the organisation.
  • The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.

Lead by example, don’t underestimate the effect good (or bad) leadership has.


6. Measure

Measure progress, celebrate success and share ongoing challenges and proposed solutions.

By having clear and measurable objectives and a structured governance, you can start measuring the progress of your change:

  • Hold regular status update meetings and ensure the right people are involved and informed.
  • Share and celebrate when milestones are hit. Nothing encourages progress, then actual progress.
  • Involve different people when running into issues. More minds can think of more suitable solutions together.
  • Adjust and take action when necessary. Be agile in your approach.

Have the right tools in place to be able to measure and report on your objectives.


Walk the talk

Following these six steps is going to help your organisation, but is stands or falls with just ‘sticking to it’, according to Sanne: ‘’Continue to lead by example and make a plan to persevere. Slow down to see and address old behaviour, resistance, and sabotage of the new ways of working and clarify expected behaviour. It is important to have patience and stick to the chosen path if you want it to be successful.’’ ‘’I agree and would like to add to that to slow down; take time to see what is happening and act accordingly!’’, Wilco adds.

A few guidelines for leaders in the organisation to ensure the best embedding of the change and move towards the new normal:

  • Do as you say and lead by example: others will be more willing to show the expected behaviour when their leader does it. If it’s difficult for you as a leader, that’s okay! Express this, because it might be too for your employees and it helps if you take them along your own ‘change-journey’.
  • Don’t make exceptions you don’t need to make or that don’t make sense. If a new process is not working well, change the process for everyone or accept what is.
  • Be aware of the right communication forms, tune in and adjust to what’s needed.
  • Remember: actions speak louder than words.

In the end it’s not the talk but the walk that matters

Does your organisation need help within the field of sustainable change? We guide your organisation and your people through an impactful business change. We deliver change management support for adaption to the new structure or ways of working. Our methodology to focus on people and leadership, helps your organisation to increase performance and become stronger in the future.​

Download Quintops six-step plan to sustainable change

In need of a change management expert?
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