How to Go Deeper: Solidifying Adoption
At this point we pick up again where we left off at the end of Stage 4: we have successfully completed a trial. What do we do next? The first thing to do is to look carefully at what happened to determine what should be done differently next time, what should be added, smoothed out, altered, so that it will work better, have greater impact, take less time and energy. In short, we are looking forward to repeating the trial a second and a third time, gaining mastery through practice and feedback on results, and gaining reassurance and comfort from the growing realization that it is easily doable.
If you as the change agent are actually involved in the doing, then it is now time to work on passing off the activity and the responsibility for doing it to others in the user system. It is important to make it theirs in every sense;
The key word in insuring continuance is "internalization." Where possible, the change agent should lead the client toward self-help and responsibility in the maintenance of the innovation. There are at least six important considerations in insuring continuance. These are:
"Many an innovation brought in with great fanfare is superficially accepted, and months or years later, things have drifted back to the way they were before. Nobody may have openly resisted the change. Nobody revoked it. It just didn't last ... " Watson & Glaser
"Guidance and encouragement, not power control, fosters creativity and innovativeness." Woods
Positive reinforcement is an extremely important influence on human behavior. The client must feel that the innovation pays off in one way or another and must see that it continues to payoff over time. You should do all you can to make sure that the rewards are visible to the client and that they continue to be visible.
"Early rewards and some tangible success are critical incentives during implementation." Fullan
Rewards for innovation can come in a number of ways. The innovation may payoff directly in improved performance, reduced costs, saved time and labor, etc., but when these direct benefits are not clear immediately, the indirect rewards, such as the continuing encouragement and approval of others, become very important. One major reason for followup by the change agent is to provide this kind of support; the knowledge that "someone out there really cares" can be a crucial factor in promoting continued use.
True adoption of an innovation does not come automatically with acceptance. The would-be users must become familiar with it, trying it out repeatedly in the situations which are natural to them. Early trials take a lot of time and effort because new things do not come easy. For a long time the users are likely to feel awkward and artificial even if they believe that the innovation is right for them. They must get through this period before the change agent can be sure that the innovation will really work.
Ideally the innovation should eventually become a routine part of everyday life for the client. It should be something they can do or use automatically without an excessive amount of concentrated effort.
Innovations which last are those which become a part of the way of life of the client system, embedded in its everyday behavior. For this to happen the innovation must also be integrated within the existing structure; there must be room for it. Provision must be made for people to have time to use it and money to buy it, or run it, or maintain it. The willingness of the leaders to make room for an innovation is probably the best index to their real attitudes toward it, regardless of the lip service that is paid to "accepting" it.
"The pressure of other tasks, we have found, is one of the most difficult barriers to surmount, although it is also a socially acceptable reason cited by those who are uneasy about becoming involved in change or have encountered a difficult phase ot the process. Allowing participants to help decide how they will allot their time, however, appears to have this advantage: When they devote effort to developing, they are doing so because it makes sense to them and not merely because 'it satisfies the boss' or an outside expert." Buchanan
Some provision should be made for re-inspection and re-evaluation of the innovation over time. This type of activity insures against slippage in the quality of the innovation as well as providing an added incentive and reminder that the innovation is still supposed to be in operation.
Evaluation need not be in the form of rigorous and detailed measurement and analysis, but it should be a self consciously objective inspection and reappraisal, preferably performed by someone who is informed but not personally invested in the innovation. Obviously, the larger the investment in the innovation and the greater its presumed impact, the more attention should be paid to reevaluation.
Evaluation is one of the many tasks which the change agent should encourage others to undertake, partly because it is time consuming, but mainly because the change agent may be too subjectively invested in the innovation. If you have expended much energy in gaining acceptance for an innovation you may not be an objective judge of its effectiveness because you will want to believe that it is being used widely in an efficient and beneficial way.
"Part of any program of change should be a procedure for periodic review and revision. Again, the role of the members of the organization is vital. By inviting them to participate in the review, we deepen their commitment to the enterprise.
"If they know that an experiment has been inaugurated with the intention of re-evaluating it after a reasonable period of trial, they will accept some initial inconvenience, aware that they will have a change to air their complaints and to modify the program. If they know that they themselves will be called upon to take part in this review, they will observe more carefully and prepare themselves to offer better suggestions." Watson & Glaser
Whether we are talking about hardware innovations, or social innovations, such as new patterns of management, breakdowns and misapplications are bound to occur after initial installation. There must be some sort of maintenance system to deal with these situations. There must be someone to show us where the innovation went wrong and how we can make it right. Again, because you cannot predict when a breakdown will occur and you cannot remain on the scene indefinitely, maintenance probably should be a built-in function provided by someone you have trained for this purpose. If there is no provision for maintenance, you may get a rapid erosion of acceptance after failures begin to occur. The inability to correct errors and breakdowns rapidly breeds distrust of the innovation and a spread of negative reactions and rumors that the innovation will not work and will be more trouble than it is worth.
Sophisticated acceptance and adoption requires flexibility and an ability to adapt as well as adopt. This continues to be true over time because the client's circumstances may change. If the client is able to reshape the innovation to meet his or her changing needs, he or she will be more likely to continue using it effectively.
If these six points are considered in formulating your strategy, you are likely to succeed in stabilizing the innovation. But complete stabilization of a particular innovation may not always be in the best interest of your client in the long run.
Sophisticated consumers accept innovations only so long as they benefit them more than competing innovations. Thus, stabilization should only be partial, never total. The client should retain the flexibility and the freedom to discontinue an innovation when something better comes along.
The website's content is relevant to today's business, education, government and non-profit organizations as they attempt to implement new ideas and innovations in their organizations. It also provides case studies to help help understand the roles of Change Agents and the processes related to Change.