I took my daughter to an orthodontist appointment yesterday to see when she should get her second round of braces. Yes, she has to get braces again!
She had braces for most of 2019, and by the end, her teeth had all been straightened. Then she had the braces off for most of 2020, and now, they’re not. She’ll need to get them back on to finish the job.
That’s ok. This process was actually by design. And I think it illustrates the stages of change management.
The first stage of braces was about alignment. But not how you might think. It was about aligning the remaining baby teeth so the permanent ones below would come up in the right place. The baby teeth will also be easily pushed out and won’t need a dentist’s intervention. This speeds up later steps in the process.
For organizational change, this looks like building the case for change, gaining agreement on the need for something different, and getting everyone involved and adopting the vision for the future. Literally, so change is not like pulling teeth.
The second stage for the braces has been a lot of waiting, wiggling, and waiting some more. And yes, some of the teeth are no longer straight. But this stage was really the process of getting ready for the next stage, which will bring about the desired end state.
In change management, the readiness stage is all about equipping people to change successfully. Readiness gives people what they need to act on the alignment they share. It’s communications and training. It’s providing tools and information. It’s getting managers ready to lead change. It’s involving people in planning and anticipating the implementation.
In the next stage, the braces will go back on, this time on all permanent teeth. Through a series of small actions, the teeth will be shifted to their final positions into a straight smile.
Once people are ready for change, then it’s time to flip the switch and start making the change! Implementation is the transition from the current state to the future state. It’s following through on plans while troubleshooting problems. It’s providing support and continued encouragement.
After the second round of braces comes off, the final stage is a retainer. The retainer holds the teeth in place. Gradually, as the teeth stay in position, she will wear it less and less.
After the implementation, organizational change needs to be sustained through reinforcement. Accountability keeps everyone from sliding back. Continued focus ensures that change will stick for the long run.
Separating the first and second rounds of braces means the total time in braces will be shortened. Compare that to my son, who has been in braces for four years and (fingers crossed) is finally about to be finished. His treatment was one long implementation with lots of corrections over time. No alignment and readiness stages helped get everything ready.
The same goes for organizational change. Taking the time to get aligned and ready for change makes the overall implementation go smoother.
I bet you didn’t know the latest in orthodontic treatment can teach us something about the stages of change management, but there you go! Change management has four distinct stages: alignment, readiness, implementation, and sustainment.