In ancient times, conquering heroes were crowned with wreathes of laurel, giving rise to the idiom to rest on one’s laurels, meaning to bask in the glory of past achievements. When it comes to acts of bravery, one may indeed rest on one’s laurels without fear. However, with respect to implementing change, resting on one’s laurels is a Very Bad Idea. One must guard against the temptation to view the project as over and done. After the fanfare of an effective implementation has faded, the goals of your initiative are at risk unless you have an action-oriented sustainability process in place.

The good news is that this can be done with small steps, consistency, and attention to detail:

  1. Maintain documentation. How often have you looked for information only to find that the only available documentation is three years old and woefully outdated? Assign people—and hold them accountable—to keep documents such as policies, procedures, training materials, and system specifications current. This is particularly critical when members of the original project team leave the organization and new employees are hired. Don’t rely on tribal knowledge.
  1. Provide continuous communication and training to everyone who is affected by the newly installed changes. Proactively distribute news and tips via email distribution lists. Get on the agendas of regular meetings. Post information on your organization’s intranet site or internal portal. Thoughtfully consider if new training modules need to be offered as the system develops. Offer refresher brief training or “lunch and learn” style sessions to address knowledge gaps.
  1. Keep business leaders engaged with updates, issues, and progress, especially after the project governance structure has disbanded. An information vacuum can leave management wondering, “What did we get for that expensive change initiative we launched last year?” Keeping leaders updated has an additional benefit; it earns you the credibility to ask them to help remove obstacles as they arise during the system’s or process’s evolution.
  1. Value and respond to individual needs and provide coaching or assistance when needed. Organizational change happens at the individual level, one person at a time. Each person you assist provides them with confidence, reinforces the change in the organization and likely wins you a person more willing to embrace whatever changes come in the future. You will have subtly developed a network of change champions.

Sustaining change requires discipline, but it’s not as time- or resource-consuming as it appears. It’s a relatively small investment of effort that pays substantial benefits. Safeguard your project achievements by not resting on your laurels.