Mat Roosa, LCSW-R
Sometimes a change team can feel like a phone with only 2 percent battery life left. Some teams start with a full charge that drains through time. Other teams get started with a lower level of energy and go downhill from there. The challenge of COVID-19 and other competing priorities and stressors can quickly diminish a change team’s energy and divert attention from the change project.
- Let the data be the driver
A strong data collection process that gives the team new data to consider at each meeting can enhance interest in a project. Data that shows that a change is making a positive difference can be incredibly motivating!
- Executive sponsorship
Leaders can support team enthusiasm by giving members time to complete the change project and promoting the team's work to the broader organization. NIATx Principle no. 2: Fix Key Problems is based on the idea that change projects that fix key problems important to the CEO are more likely to succeed than those that are less important to the CEO. Enthusiasm rarely wanes when change teams pick projects that are relevant to the most pressing needs of the organization. The project should address concerns that keep the CEO awake at night, including fiscal and other urgent matters, to ensure a high energy level.
- Know when to quit
Some teams tend to keep hammering away on a project while achieving little. The concepts of diminishing returns and sunk cost (resources already invested) bias can be critical to deciding when to end a change project effort. The diminishing returns of ongoing efforts can lead us to conclude that we have maxed out the project's benefits and are better off moving to a new project, even if we have not reached our goal. Projects that have not achieved any measurable results can sometimes lead teams to continue their efforts, as they do not want to waste their sunk costs. Team leaders can help shift the team toward framing the lack of progress as a critical lesson learned, and then moving the team toward a new project.
The support of someone experienced with the rapid-cycle change model can help you decide when it is time to end a change project and strike out in a new improvement direction.
Mat Roosa was a founding member of NIATx and has been a NIATx coach for a wide range of projects. He works as a consultant in quality improvement, organizational development and planning, and implementing evidence-based practices. Mat also serves as a local government planner in behavioral health in New York State. His experience includes direct clinical practice in mental health and substance use services, teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and human service agency administration. You can reach Mat (Change Project SOS) at firstname.lastname@example.org.