When it comes to personal habits, it takes about six months
for a human to change behaviour on a permanent basis. When you think about organisation-wide, or group behaviour
though, it can take considerably more than six months for real change to happen.
That’s not to say that you cannot facilitate (at least short term) change quickly. From the hackathons and innovation programs we’ve run, we’ve observed quite stunning change in capability, attitude and productivity in people brought together to collectively problem solve over a very short period.
But the trouble is that this kind of sudden change is a disruption to the norm. And it can often be easier to slip back in to normal business practice after a day, a week, or even a whole quarter of new, innovative activity.
If you want change that’s going to stick in an organisation, you need to keep at it for an extended period. You need to keep experimenting, and you need to keep bringing more people into the process of change. Change itself has to become the habit. That takes time, because even when you have an open-minded team, the practicalities of life (family commitments, health, living and social arrangements) will often act as an inhibitor of change.
As a bare minimum, and even in the most innovative organisations, it’s going to take a year to change the way you work, communicate, use technology, and/or innovate. But your change plan should look much longer than a year ahead. Because if you really want change, you need to give yourself and your company the time to adapt.