Change Management WalkMe TeamUpdated May 20, 2019

Why You Should Offer Short-Term Wins in Change Management

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Why You Should Offer Short-Term Wins in Change Management

Short-term wins are a must in change management.

They do not just help employees feel good about themselves – they help move the change program forward.

Below, we’ll discuss:

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  • What short-term wins are
  • How to incorporate them into your program
  • The reasons that they matter so much

Those reasons can make a big difference in the results you get from your change program.

But before we explain the “why” of short-term wins, let’s find out exactly what they are.

Short-Term Wins – What Exactly Are They?

A short-term win, according to John Kotter, has three characteristics:

  • It is clear and unambiguous
  • It is connected to the change initiative
  • Many people can see the results for themselves

To achieve the results mentioned below – boosting employee productivity and maintaining momentum – short-term wins must be short.

These should be goals that can be completed in as little as a few months.

However, it is important to remember the points mentioned above.

Short-term wins should be real, visible, and tangible.

Everyone should be able to see the results without question or ambiguity.

Why Short-Term Wins Matter in Change Management

The truth is that most employees don’t like change.

There are a few reasons why:

  • People prefer what’s familiar. The unfamiliar and unknown are uncomfortable. This means that new software, new workflows, new coworkers – anything new – makes people uncomfortable.
  • Change can be scary. In some cases, change can scare workers. Many people view automation, for example, as a threat to job security. In such cases, change programs are often viewed as threatening, which can create resistance.
  • Workers are already busy. There is also the simple fact that people’s schedules are already full. In most cases, change initiatives simply pile on more work. Along with the other reasons mentioned here, this can build up employee resistance.
  • Employees aren’t pre-sold on change. Employees don’t know what’s in it for them … unless you tell them. This means that you will hit a wall unless employees know the “why” of any change program. And, more importantly, the personal benefits of a change program.

Short-term wins are designed to prevent, avoid, and overcome these types of problems.

Here are a few ways they do that:

  • They show progress and movement. A long-term change project can last years. If employees don’t see progress, they will lose steam. Short-term wins can demonstrate progress toward the end goal.
  • Employees become more motivated, and therefore more productive. A short-term win boosts morale, especially if it is celebrated and rewarded. As a result, employee productivity, engagement, and other relevant metrics will get a boost.
  • Change momentum is easier to maintain. Lost momentum is difficult to recover. It is critical to hold onto that momentum with change management tactics, such as short-term wins and regular communication.
  • And they can prevent change fatigue and burnout. Change fatigue – or worse, employee burnout – can stop a change program in its tracks. It is your job to avoid these at all costs, and one of the best ways to do this is with short-term wins.

These are key reasons to make plans for short-term wins, celebrations, and rewards.

How to Include Short-Term Wins in Your Program

Let’s look at a few ways to successfully implement short-term wins in your initiative:

  • Set short-term goals. Short-term wins are only possible if you set short-term milestones, or goals. If an entire change program has a three-year timeline, then segment that timeline. Create shorter goals that can be achieved in 3, 6, 9, or 12 months.
  • Celebrate wins. Short-term wins must be celebrated to get results. This will enhance the impact and help employees feel better about the change program. You do not have to hold big parties each time you complete a goal. But it must make an impact. The result will be more engagement and productivity.
  • Present rewards. Recognition, bonuses, social activities, and other rewards can deepen the impact of a short-term win. In fact, without rewards, it won’t feel like much of a win – so brainstorm ways to reward employees for their efforts.
  • Review, rinse, and repeat. Each time you complete a milestone and celebrate it, evaluate your efforts. Learn what worked, what didn’t, and what you can improve upon. Each time you do this, you will make your short-term wins more productive and effective.

It is important to remember that short-term wins are not the only way to improve engagement.

They are simply one tactic that you should include in your change management toolbox.

For best results, ensure that you have a holistic change management strategy … one that is grounded in a change model and principles of change management.


People have short attention spans – especially for things that aren’t interesting to them.

Change initiatives have to be sold to employees, or workers will quickly lose interest.

Short-term wins are one technique to do that.

By including them as part of your overall change strategy, you will improve engagement, reduce employee resistance, and achieve better results from your change program.

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