Projects fail sometimes. Even the most promising of company initiatives can fall to the wayside when the structure is askew. Failure is all the more disappointing when the intention is well-intended such as increased diversity and inclusion, improved sanitation and safety or a more eco-friendly office. This disappointment is only exacerbated when a significant amount of money has been sunk into it. How might we avoid a premature expiration date on our well-meaning endeavours?
An initiative in isolation has a primary agent - they manage everything, and they do it well. The project is moving full speed ahead, funding is increasing, workers receive perks and are happier, and the workplace is more efficient. Optimism bias prevents the company from seeing the cracks in the foundation.
Then, the leader of this wonderful initiative leaves the company. No one else truly understands the ins and outs of the program and the structure crumbles. The company says goodbye to the improvements that have been made.
Project Management versus Organizational Change.
When only a few people are in charge of sustaining and maintaining something like diversity and inclusion initiatives, those people become the experts in the changes. This inspires an authority bias; the knowledge and responsibilities seem to ultimately belong to the heads of the project. This perception becomes the status quo and quickly proves difficult to move away from as a collective.
So what’s the alternative?
A complete organization change suggests a more even distribution of responsibility associated with an initiative. No one person can be the lifeblood of an institutional change. This speaks to engaging different levels of authority in a company as well; even temps can play a role to change company culture.
Nudges that Perpetuate Sustainable Change.
Make organizational change an imperative, not a perk. By making it clear that your initiative is a permanent fixture in the everyday conduct of the workplace, any setbacks will not automatically result in failure. Having employees sign a contract to acknowledge their role in an initiative is a very effective commitment device, as signatures trigger a sense of commitment and honesty even if the level cannot be measured.
Utilize legitimate metrics. With a public measure of progress, employees are more likely to actively participate in the initiative. An emphasis on teamwork and accountability will also foster a sense of responsibility organization-wide.
Finally, call this what it is: a restructuring! The word project implies containment to one or a few people. Call your initiative a project, and you’ll be left to manage everything yourself. Instead, find a way to involve everyone to create changes that last.
We at Cowry want to help people and businesses achieve goals with ease. Even lofty initiatives can be seamlessly integrated into the workplace with the aid of behavioural science. With the rigorous attention to detail and consistent updating of the scientific background of our nudges, we create simple solutions that can help sustain even the most abstract of initiatives. Our team of behavioural designers are trained to foresee these seemingly small issues and prevent them from becoming a problem in the first place, setting you up for enduring success.