The final stage in the Transtheortical Model of Change (TTM) is Maintenance. This is the stage where the change Action has been successfully carried out to a significant extent and now the gains must be Maintained. The exercise routine must continue. The time management tools must continue to be effectively used. The new reporting procedure must be carried out by all employees for all cases.
The earliest versions of the TTM had Maintenance as a finite stage, ending with “Termination” when change was deemed fully accomplished. For some changes there is a clear finish line, such as the company reorganization example in the Team Buy-In post. In these cases maintenance might just be double checking to make sure the resources are in place to support the new system long term.
However, for most ventures involving people the end is fuzzy, if it exists at all. We need to continue to put both thought and energy into making the new successful behaviors into new successful habits. For all our best intentions old habits are hard to beat, whether we are talking about smoking, procrastination, or toxic team dynamics. At some point in the change process you will be tempted to fall back to old behaviors, old patterns. You may even give into this temptation. This is not defeat, its Relapse.
Although the term Relapse is most commonly associated with substance abuse, it is relevant in contexts where we are trying to exchange old, unproductive behaviors for new, productive behaviors. We can learn a lot from our substance abuse recovery colleagues:
1) Relapse is a common part of the change process.
2) Shaming someone who has relapsed never helps.
3) We can learn important things about ourselves from relapse that we can then use going forward in this and other change objectives. One example of what we can learn about ourselves is our relapse triggers.
Common Relapse Triggers:
Stress. The extra energy that is being devoted to suppressing old habits and using new behavior might be automatically shifted to maintaining more basic physical and psychological functioning in times of stress. Suddenly the old habits have free reign again.
You can gain a fair amount of insight into your preferred stress management tools. How healthy are they? Does your stress management plan begin an end with a half a bottle of wine after work every night? Do they actually work to reduce your stress? Does getting across town to the yoga studio cause more stress than it alleviates? Do you even have a stress management plan? Make one.
Over-Confidence due to early success. You successfully carried out your productive behaviors for a few weeks! You have started seeing the benefits of the new behaviors. Congratulations! Now you can afford to be a little less rigid about those new behaviors, right? You don’t need to do it Every Single Time, right? You don’t have to do it when you have to leave early to pick up the kids, right? Really, you only need to do the new behaviors when the work starts to pile up…
Persistence and preference for routine are characteristics that come more naturally to some of us than others. If you know that you are among the later, you may want to plan ahead for the maintenance stage. For instance, you may want to set behavior change targets over a longer period of time. Take a page out of the AA book and acknowledge continued adherence to the new behavior. “I’m 6 months Google Calendar compliant!”
Sustainability. Increased personal/team productivity is a common core to many change goals. The changes in behavior that can be chosen to meet that goal should be tailored to the individual/team and their skills and dispositions, and context. Some solutions are more compatible than others.
The initial excitement to change can overshadow the problem of an incompatible solution. The hint comes a few weeks in, after the initial glow has worn off and the plan is no longer seeming viable. It is worth the time to look a little deeper to why the plan is no longer being effectively followed. Again, this is not failure unless you abandon your goals. This is just an opportunity to adjust elements of the plan or try a new approach. For instance, conventional time management tools have never worked for me. So, I’ve found tools that do work.
This was a very brief treatment of the TTM and how it can be applied to Change Management plans in the workplace. Each person, team, and workplace is going to bring a unique combination of factors to the change process. If you would like help understanding your unique combinations of factors and planning your Change Management strategy accordingly, contact me. I can tell you more about how I can help.
Stay Tuned for next week’s blog, which has yet to be determined. I’m in the middle of several based on my musings of the past few weeks. It could be “Committees to Nowhere,” a bit on entrepreneurial authenticity, musings on Confirmation Bias, or something else entirely. Requests are always welcome.