How to overcome the myth of Sisyphus and anchor new practices in the long-term?

If habits or behaviors are hard to change, maintaining changes in the long term can turn out to be just as difficult, and even more so. The myth of Sisyphus is a striking illustration of how certain tasks can seem endless and pointless, a source of discouragement for those who are trying to make significant changes in their lives or their environment. So then, how do you overcome the risk to keep on restarting over and over again and increase the chances to make change sustainable.

This question is essential for managers and is one of the central preoccupations of emlyon business school, who is devoted to supporting companies on their journey to sustainable performance, notably by rolling out customized transformation programs.

When a company invests time, energy and money in the competence development of managers and leaders, it is both natural and responsible to make sure that such evolutions are firmly grounded. You want to avoid the “elastic identity” rebound effect, or the “creeping effect” occurring, once the managerial transformation action is completed, when the now-obsolete behaviors, practices and habits gradually resurface and resume their former place, giving the impression that the changes made were superficial and short-lived. In short, a flash in the pan.

The action philosophy emlyon business school relies on, to reinforce the achievements the transformation of managerial culture provided, is based on two major areas: actors and temporality. The actors involved are the partner company initiating the request, and emlyon who shall design and roll out the transformation program. As for temporality, it covers the support itself (the period when the transformation program is rolled out) and the period following suit (after the training program).

This approach is based on the assumption that the transformation of managerial behavior and practices can be sustainable provided that the company and emlyon are concretely and intentionally engaged during and after the program, to prepare for the future.

The crucial role of the partner company in ensuring the sustainability of change

During the program, the role the partner company plays is essential to guarantee the transformation sustainability of the managerial culture. Its Executive Committee can play an active role by tackling the development track and changing its own practices, and by mentoring the managers under them as part of this program. It is also important that the Executive Committee has a strategic stance consistent with the objectives of the transformation project to guarantee that the strategy and the managerial culture are aligned. It contributes to the credibility and, consequently, to the durability of the transformation. If this contribution may seem to go without saying in theory, the necessary discipline to maintain consistency between speech and action is often underestimated. And yet, designing model behaviors by the directors and influencers in the company, to inspire and guide other members of the organization, is a key factor for a successful transformation.

emlyon's mission: provide an immersive and committing track for a sustainable transformation

L'objectif est de permettre à chacun de constater avec le temps l'importance de travailler ensemble pour favoriser son propre développement

During the rolling out phase of the custom program, emlyon teams aim at guaranteeing that the transformation undertaken is deeply grounded and immersive. This is not just a simple theoretical training or a mere series of practical pieces of advice, but rather a personal and collective development track plunging participants into a fully immersive experience, in which they are led to think things over, to experiment and collaborate in an intensive manner over a prolonged period.

For a project of managerial culture change to last over time, it needs to be built on solid foundations, like a tree that needs to be planted in order to grow. emlyon develops individual and collective development programs tailored to each individual and each context, and which require a certain caring intensity for a long period of time. The objective is for everyone to be able to realize with time, the importance to work together to foster their own development and that of the company in a new story chapter.

This program provided by emlyon allows managers to discover their specific strengths and lines of development based on a tool called “360°”, allowing individuals to get feedback information about their competences and performance from their colleagues, managers, team members, customers, partners and collaborators. This 360° is then repeated at the end of the program to measure the evolutions. Participants continuously put into practice what they have learned by working on projects with their peers and their field teams. Collective and individual reflexivity is constantly relied on to facilitate back-and-forth interactions between practice and its development, to establish the evolutions and identify future progress.

Tools and methods used are based on social sciences, such as GROW, a feedforward tool or yet again, cognitive biases and group effects. Finally, the implementation of a complete impact evaluation method (based on the Kirkpatrick© model) eventually convinces the stakeholders that the transformation culture is not only possible, but also, that it has begun. In the end, emlyon's contribution is to provide everyone an immersive pedagogical adventure, rich, dense and open, one in which, mangers consciously engage at their own pace.

The company's contribution to anchor change after the program

Following the program, the company plays a decisive role in anchoring the transformation. Human Resources may make their tools evolve (annual performance review, evaluations, support...) so that they are aligned with the changes observed. The career progression of managers, the subjects covered during development reviews, the professional evolution plans and the real and tangible knowledge of managerial competences are as many actions resulting in and reinforcing the anchorage and sustainability of the new practices and behaviors. In addition, consistency between preexisting training actions and organizational development is essential to facilitate the dissemination of new approaches and ensure overall coherence.

L’entreprise a un rôle décisif pour ancrer la transformation" / "The company plays a decisive role in anchoring the transformation

"We have had an extremely strong collective experience that allowed us to pass significant milestones in our way of working together. But this journey has also raised very high expectations of new transformations to adapt to an ever-changing context. This journey of benevolent and demanding leadership is therefore a double success since it has deeply evolved our managerial postures while creating a continuous dynamic of behavioral change," concludes Frédéric Dutertre, Head of Professional Development and Managerial Skills for Crédit-Agricole Ile-de-France, a company committed to anchoring new behaviors by perpetuating peer groups as a "resource" for managers within the managerial community

Continuing the relationship with emlyon post-program

Once the program is officially over, the teams of emlyon can continue to work with the partner company in a more low-key manner, by offering to maintain certain practices long-term, such as group reunions with peers to help managers in practicing together and autonomously with the “fast codev”. Reminders can also be implemented via a targeted guidance for the Executive Committee, for instance, or via inspiring conferences in direct relation with transformation.

A gradual transition - step by step - rather than a sudden stop, makes emancipation of the partner, easier for those who integrate the sustainable appropriation as their own approach.

Just like a gardener would do to grow his vegetables and fruit, if during a program, the actors' attention is primarily focused on action and immediate impact - grains must be planted and watered first - after the program, that is when actions need to be adjusted to leave room for life while still remaining present, by making sure, for instance, that there is enough light, by renewing the ground once in a while, by lightly trimming what needs to be trimmed” illustrates Thomas Misslin, manager project customer custom program at emlyon business school.

Guaranteeing change durability

The competence development of managers and leaders is essential to reinforce the performance and long-term durability of companies We work in close collaboration with companies to design the custom training programs addressing the specific requirements of each organization and allowing the managerial community to develop the necessary competences to address tomorrow's challenges. We also implement a follow-up and feedback approach to guarantee that the acquired competences are indeed integrated in the company's culture and practices.