There comes a time in most change initiatives when you are spinning your wheels. Without realizing you are in fact stuck, you will most likely keep trying the same approaches to move the organization forward, with little success. Once you acknowledge that what you are doing isnâ€™t working, you can stop doing what got you stuck in the first place and then try something new to gain traction again.
The following are four signs your change initiative is stuck:
The Same Meeting Repeats Over and Over
If the agenda for todayâ€™s meeting covers the same topics, decisions or task updates as the last several meetings of the same group, because no progress has been made, then your change initiative is probably stuck. Attendees may agree to a path forward or commit to taking action, but after the meeting, nothing happens. They may go their own way instead of staying aligned as agreed. They may neglect to complete their tasks altogether. It wonâ€™t be long before people start losing interest because they donâ€™t want to waste their time treading water.
People Maintain Shadow Systems
The change is stuck if people use shadow systems alongside the new way of doing things. The shadow system may be a continuation of the old way, or it may be a new system that is meant to resemble or replace a perceived need the old way filled and the new way does not. These extra processes are called shadow systems because often they happen out of sight, underneath the official procedures. Even if people are using the new system, if they are using shadow systems, the full benefits of the change will most likely not be realized, and there is a possibility that the change will revert back to the old way when the official implementation is over.
The Scope Goes Deeper Than You Thought
Your initiative may get to a point where it bumps up against something that seems immovable. You may discover that in order for your change to go further, more fundamental things need to shift, like culture or values. When you find yourself complaining about the â€œway things are done around hereâ€ that prevent the change from moving forward, most likely the change requires a deeper shift in the organization. If you consider that shift beyond the scope of your project or your influence, your change is stuck within those boundaries.
You Are Frustrated and Ready to Throw in the Towel
It is fairly common as a change agent to feel like you are swimming upstream. When it gets to the point where you are exhausted and frustrated, then chances are you are stuck in a rut â€“ and if you are stuck, then your change is stuck too. You may be watching out for another project or even another organization to jump to for a fresh start. The truth is, changing projects without understanding how this one got stuck may result in a repeat in the next one. Rather than give up, seek a different approach to get both you and your initiative unstuck.
To get unstuck, first acknowledge the fact that you or your change are stuck. Keep an eye out for the things that donâ€™t seem to be working. Learn different approaches that can dislodge the organization from its stuck patterns, and then implement them.
Interested in learning more about designing and influencing change that doesn’t get stuck?
Check out the Influence Change at Workâ„¢ Toolkit.