Three Ways to Sustain Change with NIATx

 By Mat Roosa, LCSW-R, NIATx Coach

The NIATx model is designed to help teams identify and implement a process improvement. While adopting a change is a significant accomplishment, the true test lies in maintaining that change and its positive outcomes over the long term: sustaining the change.

Sustainability refers to the ability to stick with the new way of doing things and continue reaping the benefits that prompted the change initially. It involves integrating the new methods into the organizational culture, ensuring stability amidst future changes, and fostering adaptability to unforeseen circumstances.

Despite its importance, sustaining change is no easy feat. Many change efforts fail to be sustained beyond the initial six months. To counter this trend, proactive planning and diligent effort are essential. Sustainability planning should commence early in the change project, aligning with the principles of continuous improvement.

Here's a trio of strategies that change teams can use to guarantee lasting improvements:

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1. Appoint a Sustain Leader familiar with the change and its rationale.

It is difficult to think about the future when you are in the midst of trying something new. One of the best ways to develop a change project with sustainment in mind is to assign a member of the change team to the role of sustain leader. This individual will support the key efforts to sustain the change, including developing policies and procedures and maintaining ongoing measurement, both discussed below. When the rest of the team turns their attention to new priorities, the sustain leader will keep the change effort on course.


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Document the change in policy and procedure manuals, ensuring simplicity and clarity.

A clear indication that a successful change is at risk of not being sustained is to hear the Change Leader saying, “Don’t forget to continue to…”. Such reminders are never needed for activities that are well-established as standard operating procedures. Adjustments to documentation processes, including adding required elements and checklists, make the new practice a required element that cannot be skipped. Maintaining an up-to-date policies and procedures manual to actively guide practice will ensure that the new practice becomes the norm.


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Establish data collection methods to monitor progress continuously.

One of the best ways to sustain a change is to keep measuring it. We tend to pay attention to the things that we measure. When change projects achieve the desired goal, there is a tendency to stop measuring and move on to new priorities. When measurement is continued weekly, or at least monthly, the team can take preventive action when the numbers start to slip.

This data monitoring can trigger the reactivation of the change team. Ongoing measurement also points to the need for manageable measures that are easy to maintain and review. Complex data measures that require a high level of energy to maintain are less likely to be sustained.

By embracing sustainability from the outset, organizations can pave the way for enduring positive change and continuous improvement in their operations.


Ready to launch a NIATx Change Project? Join our next NIATx Virtual Change Leader Academy in May 2024!