In Action, Change, Strategy

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill

I’ve spent some time lately speaking with various groups about change, things that drive successful change, things you can do to be better at making change, etc. I’ve run across a common theme with a number of those groups. It isn’t anything new, but it’s happened a lot lately so it’s in the front of my mind.

When I speak with people about successful change, one thing I always tell them is that I define ‘successful change’ a certain way: a significant change in how your business operates (not just getting a new office chair or rearranging your pencil drawer), and a significant change in the results you’re getting. What I’ve run into lately is a lot of people forgetting that last part.

Example: Someone mentioned to me that they had overhauled their process for evaluating and hiring talent. They had a number of bad experiences, turnover was high, etc., and they just felt like they needed to do something different. So they decided to bring in a new HR director, re-work their interview process, look for talent in different places, change benefits & pay – a whole laundry list of things.

I asked them how the change process went. They said it was fantastic & they’d accomplished all those things & really felt good about their ability to make change. They said that now that they’d done all that work they could turn their attention to other things.

Then I asked how much their turnover rate had decreased and if those bad experiences had stopped happening. They looked at me for a minute, and then somebody quietly said that actually, turnover was higher, and they’d just spent a few hours in a meeting the previous day talking about how to handle a few ugly situations. In other words, none of the results had changed.

The point is that if you do a bunch of stuff differently, and the results don’t change, that’s not successful change. That’s a bunch of extra work with no benefit. At some point you have to evaluate the results and decide if your change is working or if you need to try something else. You’ve perhaps changed how you do things, but you haven’t implemented successful change.

So here’s the takeaway: Don’t just assume that because you’re doing something new or differently that you’ve successfully made change. Measure the results. Compare them to your original vision for whatever change you made (you had a vision, right?). Did you get what you want? Or did you just do a bunch of work with no result?

The goal is a great business, so make sure you haven’t stopped short of the goal. If the results aren’t there, head back to the drawing board. Don’t be satisfied with anything short of success.

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  • Wayne Lockhart

    Quite true Matt. Your blog reminds me of the strategic planning model. Set a HR objective and at the same time set a key result by which to measure if the objective has been achieved.

    • Matt Heemstra

      You’re right Wayne, very similar. There are very few things more demotivating for people than to do a whole bunch of work in the name of change, and when you get done with all that work you have no idea whether you accomplished anything or not. Set a target & measure it.

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