Top 5 How To’s for Business Initiative Sustainment

Mike Girdler

Flavor Of The Month? No Thanks! I’m sure we’ve all heard this or something like it, “Yeah, we tried that, but it just didn’t last”, …

Flavor Of The Month? No Thanks!

SustainmentI’m sure we’ve all heard this or something like it, “Yeah, we tried that, but it just didn’t last”, or how about, “We implement something and it is ‘the flavor of the month’ and after a while we just go back to the way we were doing it.” It doesn’t matter if it is a process that is being changed, 5S efforts, a new sales training initiative, or fostering a culture of continuous improvement, without a sustainment strategy, your efforts are doomed to fail.

Here are the top 5 how-to’s for your organization’s business initiatives to be sustained.

  • Plan for it. Seems pretty obvious but in many cases the plan focus is on the event: the roll out of the new initiative. When we introduce new initiatives, the changes we are making can be to very deeply entrenched processes or approaches. Spending 2 or 3 days a week to roll out the new initiative and then expect to have it take root organically, it just ain’t gonna happen. In addition to the launch and implementation, your plan needs to outline how and when audits will occur and measurements you’ll use to track progress. As well, your plan needs to outline how you will make any necessary course corrections. For sustainment success, develop a plan and focus on the long-term, not just the roll out.
  • Communicate expectations. Make sure everyone in the organization understands the significance of the initiative, how it supports the organization’s objectives, and what’s in it for them. Ensure everyone knows what the expectations are, what they are expected to contribute, and what success looks like. Outline the training, resources and support available to help make sure the initiative lasts. Deliver regular updates on how things are progressing to reinforce expectations.
  • Executive commitment. Executive personnel need to be committed to the effort. They need to walk the proverbial walk, and be able to confidently convey the benefits of the initiative and how it supports the vision of the organization. However, it doesn’t stop there. For sustainment to really take root within the organization, executives must be active. They need to consistently advocate, stay connected and interact with employees, champion the initiative, and consistently reinforce the benefit.
  • Incentives and acknowledgement. Once employees know what is expected of them, know what success looks like, offering incentives can go a long way in helping your sustaining efforts. Incentives don’t have to be costly. They can be as simple as, hit a KPI and it is a luncheon, a small gift/movie tickets, a gift card, or some other means of acknowledgement. The key is making it worth their while, and sustainment efforts remain front and center.
  • Evaluate, adjust, and stay committed. As you implement your initiative, evaluate your progress. Are you where you want to be? Is the effort meeting expectations? Based on your evaluation, make any necessary adjustments to ensure sustainment. Perhaps you may need to provide additional training; maybe it is one-on one-coaching, or additional communications. The key is to remember is sustainment takes effort. Consistently evaluate your progress, be flexible, be prepared to provide new or additional resources, and stay committed. 

Don’t let your initiative fall in to the “flavor of the month” category; increase the success of sustainment by planning, communicating, commitment, incentives, and evaluating and adjusting.

What’s does sustainment look like in your organization? Thanks for reading don’t forget to share/tweet/like our blog just underneath this paragraph. And don’t forget, we’re always here to help with your business efficiency needs.

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Michael Girdler is a vice-president, CornerStone Dynamics Inc. His blogs focus on all things project management. Throughout Mike's career, he has invested deeply into projects involving sales, marketing, training and development, continuing education, and communications environments.

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