Assessing Organizational Readiness for Change in Your Business

Dustin Moore | November 10, 2019

There’s no doubt that effective change management is essential to maximizing an organization’s adaptability. But you must first answer an important question: Is your business ready to embrace change?

If you perform a simple search online, you can find an endless amount of (often contradictory) advice on measuring change readiness. Some claim that, with sufficient communication and resources, your organization can be prepared to adapt to practically any structural change. Unfortunately, this likely isn’t the case. According to change management expert Marge Combe, writing for Project Management Institute:

“There are numerous models and processes put forward for managing change. But many of them, even those by highly respected gurus, begin with an assumption that bringing enough sponsorship, vision, communication and resources can overcome any obstacles and make an organization and its people ready to successfully adopt the change. That is likely a faulty assumption …” 

You must assess your business to determine its readiness to adapt to a proposed change, which will help ensure that your change management efforts are not in vain. This article will explain how to identify stakeholders involved in a proposed change and provide actionable advice for assessing your organization’s readiness for change, then acting on that information.

Identify Who the Change Affects in the Company and How

You can’t determine how ready an organization is to adopt new technologies or processes without taking a look at the leaders, employees, clients, and other stakeholders it will directly affect. In order to perform a change readiness assessment, you first must identify which stakeholders a prospective change may affect and how it may do so. These are the people who must comprehend the purpose and methods involved with a change, then adjust accordingly.

As most transformative change occurs incrementally, leadership must have access to a change management document to understand the schedule regarding when process changes should occur. It’s important to delegate duties across roles effectively to ensure that change is fully implemented. Some software can assist with this by granting employees of different roles varying levels of access to information, tools, and resources.

Taking a Look at an Example

As an example, consider a business that wants to shift its filing storage system from physical documents to a digital filing solution to store client data. This is an intensive process that involves both processing existing documents and creating new workflows for processing future clients. 

Management, clerks, IT specialists, any other employees who may interface with client data, and clients themselves, should be informed about this proposed change. Their needs and concerns are paramount when it comes to creating a change management plan. 

The changes may be planned incrementally. Clerks and IT specialists can learn more about the software required through meetings, training, support, and reference material. They will then scan the physical documents into the cloud storage platform, consulting with management when issues arise. 

Other stakeholders who will interface with client data — including marketers, suppliers, and so on — will receive similar training, enabling them to adapt to new workflow processes. If the chosen software supports different roles, these individuals can be presented exclusively with the information required to perform their work. This can prevent confusion from employees and preserve client confidentiality.

Measure Change Readiness

Once you’ve determined who will be affected by a change, you can begin measuring how ready they are to adapt to and adopt it. Does your business have processes for proactively assessing market needs? If not, this should be the first change you look into, as this will facilitate meaningful change over time.

Further, determine if stakeholders are ready and willing to help the organization redefine itself to suit market needs. Trends in feedback from stakeholders can reveal problems with communication and structural inertia. Structural inertia indicates a lack of change agility — your organization’s ability to identify and take advantage of market opportunities. 

You will want to gather quantifiable data about these stakeholders in regards to performance and engagement. You will also need to regularly assess production cycles and resource allocation to determine where inefficiencies are. Gathering feedback through the following methods will help you do so:

    • Conduct surveys about employees’ feelings concerning their performance, access to support, organizational leadership, and the overall direction of their department. Trends in responses may indicate needs in your business and potential causes of resistance to change.
    • Ask questions regarding skills that may be required to adapt to and adopt proposed changes. For instance, if a change involves switching to new software, are stakeholders versed in the technological skills required to use it? If not, this could be a sign that affected individuals are unprepared and may resist change adoption. 
  • Find and examine relevant performance metrics. These will vary depending on the business as well as the proposed change, but some common metrics you should keep in mind include:
    • Core revenue impact: This is a statistic that represents the number of overall costs that are covered by core revenue. If a change necessitates hiring new employees or the adoption of new services, you’ll need to be sure that those costs can be covered by the organization’s current revenue. 
    • Efficiency rating: Based on work expectations, managers typically budget a certain number of hours to complete projects. When the actual hours needed by employees to complete projects match the budgeted hours, the organization is highly efficient. When individuals consistently go over or under this number, there may be issues with work expectations or employee performance. Addressing such issues is integral before an effective change can be implemented.
    • Customer/client acquisition cost ratio: This is much like the efficiency rating, but it applies to marketing costs. This compares new recurring revenue to marketing costs in order to determine the cost-effectiveness of a business’s marketing dollars. This can be an important metric for businesses looking to make changes to improve their marketing performance.
  • You should gather feedback about how stakeholders feel about a suggested change. Keep open channels of communication for stakeholders. Encourage participation and engagement to keep an ongoing discussion about proposed and ongoing changes. Recurring concerns, complaints, and requests from stakeholders may highlight aspects of a prospective change that may require further explication. 

Assess Change Readiness

Based on the feedback you’ve acquired, you should be ready to assess issues affecting your organization’s overall readiness for change. Data should shed light on problems regarding processes, resources, and stakeholder commitment. 

If you are unsure how to interpret the data you’ve collected, consider how it may apply to the most common problem areas when it comes to organizational change. Five of the most common barriers are:

  1. Resistance to change;
  2. Insufficient information about the current state;
  3. Integration;
  4. Competitive forces;
  5. Complexity.

While not all problems will fit neatly into these categories, these are the major types of issues to be on the lookout for. Once you’ve clearly identified the nature of issues that could inhibit the implementation of change, you’re ready to build a strategy to counteract them.

Build a Strategy Based on the Assessment Results

Building a strategy around assessment results requires data-informed decision-making. To maintain the buy-in of stakeholders, you must remember to be transparent about your reasons for committing to the change (using data to explain your reasoning), keep channels of communication open throughout the process, and be willing to adapt when necessary. 

Share a Change Management Plan Document

You’ll want to maintain an ongoing, freely accessible document outlining your purpose and intentions. This will be your change management plan. You may want to create several versions of this document that speak to the needs and concerns of different types of stakeholders. This will allow you to share information with all stakeholders in terms that they will understand and find relevant.

Consider Forming a Change Management Team

Depending on the size of your business and the scope of the changes you want to implement, you may want to create a change management team. This is a team of individuals (including leadership, senior management, and other major stakeholders) who will help you implement changes, gather feedback, and adjust plans as needed. Note that, regardless of who you place in your change management team, every employee should be explicitly told and provided reference material explaining how they will be held accountable for implementing changes.

Determine a Timeline for Rolling Out Changes

At the outset, you must determine how quickly you want to implement the change. Nearly any major organizational change should be implemented incrementally. This is especially true if it involves laying off or hiring employees, as rapid changes in a workforce can be extremely detrimental to overall morale. On a monthly or quarterly basis, you can integrate intermediate changes. This gives employees time to acclimate, reducing confusion, excess stress, and work dissatisfaction.

Track Progress and Monitor Signs of Resistance

As changes are implemented you will want to track progress (using your chosen performance metrics) and keep your eyes peeled for any signs of resistance. You may find that using a digital adoption solution will help you track such issues, as well as provide employees support when needed while integrating changes into their workflow. Negative performance or feedback will guide your change management plan. 

Organizational Readiness Assessment Checklist

Before you commit to any organizational change, you must be able to answer the following questions:

  • Are you using an established approach to change management? Does it require any customization to suit your business’ needs? 
  • What change management skills will leadership and management require to maximize a proposed change’s effectiveness?
  • What resources do you need to enact the proposed change? How will these be acquired?
  • Do you have a plan for communicating proposed changes? 
  • Have you identified all affected stakeholders? To what extent will the change affect them?
  • Will the change be implemented incrementally? How long should be allotted to ensure a smooth transition?
  • What training materials and resources will be needed?
  • How will you encourage stakeholder participation and engagement? How will this feedback be incorporated?
  • Do you have a plan to address resistance to change?
  • How will you assess changes to determine their level of implementation and effectiveness? What are your primary key performance indicators?

Once you’re prepared with answers to each of these questions, you’ll be prepared to move forward with organizational change.

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