For processes to actually improve in your organization over the long-term, people need to believe that there is a reason why change needs to occur and why it needs to occur now. There must be an informed consent – not a mad rush or a docile acquiescence – that drives action across hierarchies, departments, and projects. And you can structure an environment to help create that consent. Start change by considering these 7 ways to help increase urgency in your organization:*

#1: Focus on financial losses

Trust us: People get interested when they see numbers turning red. If your organization has areas that are losing profitability, share that information with employees in a way that they will be able to understand it. They need to see how those losses have the potential to impact them personally and how they personally have the ability to impact those losses. By tying the relationship between losses and people together in a direct way, the simplicity of process improvement becomes an easy “yes.”

#2: Initiate Kaizen Events to identify inefficiencies

If Kaizen Events are new to you, all they are is a tool that gathers employees, managers, and owners of a process in one place to map existing processes and collectively determine ways to improve on that process. They can extend over a couple of hours or over weeks depending on the level of organization need, and there are several checklists available to help you run a successful Kaizen Event (try HERE and HERE).

#3: Identify unpopular programs or processes

People are often intrinsically motivated to change what’s “bugging” them about their workplace. By providing time and space to discuss what isn’t working in the organization, employees can often identify and solve problems that are detrimental to company health.

#4: Increase or decrease membership in the organization

Whether from mass recruitment, layoffs, loss of customer accounts, or bringing in new clients, any time organizations experience a substantial enough shift in stakeholder numbers, people recognize the accompanying change as an inevitability and are more open to process improvement as part of that change process.

#5: Hold employees accountable for their actions

People will do what’s working for them (or what they think is working for them). If your employees aren’t actively working to improve processes and nothing is said or done, that’s a problem. Further, if they’re actively working on process improvement and nothing is said or done, that’s a bigger problem. By holding people accountable and rewarding desired behaviour, you set a clear precedent about what is expected in your organization – what will be tolerated and what won’t.

#6: Restructure leadership

Shaking up management structures across the company sends a clear message to those in charge that the status quo will not continue and invites an opportunity for employees to re-evaluate their contributions to their departments or to the organization as a whole. New objectives and targets can be set that can help accelerate process improvements across the board.

#7: Bombard people with aspirations for the future

Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is a great example of this. In giving people a clear picture of what could be, he helped motivate commitment to an ideal that had not yet materialized. You can do the same for your staff. Help them see so clearly what your company can become and, more importantly, why achieving that ideal matters beyond a financial logic, and you can create an urgency for change that did not exist previously.

By giving people the information and experiences they need to understand and appreciate why the change needs to occur – the sense of urgency behind process improvement – you create the kind of informed consent that can internally motivate and sustain long-term change in your organization.

“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it…People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”
– Simon Sinek

* Suggestions adapted from: Bowhay, Vincent & McCracken, Edie (Mar 2017). Leading Change: Helping Transformational Efforts Succeed. Campus Activities Programming, Vol. 49 Issue: 7, 4-5. ISSN 0746-2328