Change Management Part 6: Evaluate and Re-Adjust
(Note: these questions, while in no particular order, would likely help an organization’s efficiency if answered in the order they are presented.) Please see the previous parts before moving forward.
This will be part 6 of 6 in the entire Change Management Checklist series. Ultimately, the entirety of the series is as follows.
Part 6: Evaluate and Re-Adjust is about taking a bird’s-eye view of the change process from the foundation stage through the sustaining phase in order to evaluate the current state of the organization and adjust where needed.
After the change process is complete and sustained there will be a few defining characteristics that can be monitored to ensure you are free to move on to Part 6. These characteristics are as follows.
Characteristics of sustained change:
1. The workforce majority is committed to change.
2. Properly assigned metrics and goals have been reached.
3. The change-production curve has hit its initial trough and is now in recovery and growth cycle. (See: Question 3)
4. Communications can be dialed back since the awareness cycle. (consider team autonomy)
5. Major secondary changes have been accounted for and sustained.
In the final step of this comprehensive change process, we will discuss the questions that must be asked in order to diagnose the current positioning of the company in terms of culture, function, and performance.
We will also be asking these questions with the goal of analyzing and developing preparations for future changes that your organization might experience.
Ultimately, leaders who know what does and doesn’t work when preparing the organization for change-readiness are adaptive, trend-setting, and competitive.
Question 1: How well have we addressed the original problem?
Change is absolutely useless if it does not address the original problem. In fact, the first question in Part 1: Foundation addresses the reason why a change is necessary. Does that reason still exist? Hopefully not.
It is easy to become so caught within the day-to-day tasks and ground-level strategies that we lose sight of the pressing reason to change in the first place. It happens to everyone, especially with factors in place that provide pressure.
I often look back at my time working in retail. I remember being unhappy about working in this specific retail position, so I made the choice to leave the organization with the sole goal of finding work doing something I enjoyed. Ultimately, pressure and a lack of continued vision caused me to accept yet another retail position.
Although you are not changing job positions, you are changing the very nature of your organization with hopes of a better future. A future that is devoid of a specific issue that may be currently pressing you to change.
If I had become entirely clear on my goals and gave myself constant reminders of the purpose behind changing job positions, I would not have accepted the second retail position. You, as the sponsor for change, must keep the bigger picture in mind and remember what the change was designed to accomplish.
The vision you created in Part 1: Foundation is there to help you keep the bigger picture in mind and to assist you in making key decisions during the change process that can influence the nature of the company.
Question 2: Are there new (secondary) problems to be addressed?
In Part 5: Sustaining, we discussed the possibility of secondary change. Secondary changes are the adjustments to the initial implementation of a change that become necessary to achieve the original goal.
For example, if I focus on changing an ERP system, which may throw inventory systems out of accuracy (due to downtime, lack of inventory adjustments, etc.), then I will also inevitably have to adjust inventory systems as a result.
Secondary problems are much the same, but should only be diagnosed after Part 5: Sustaining has taken place.
Change is always implemented to avoid pressing issues within an organization. Those issues can be as diverse as raising costs, lowering profits, decreased market share, non-competition, etc. Those issues form the initial problems that change seeks to address.
However, once the change is sustained to resolve one issue, it is entirely possible (and even likely) that new issues emerge. Proper change management dictates that these new issues should, hopefully, not accumulate into a larger threat for an organization than the original problem was.
And here we find the difficult balance between resource planning. Organizational change is like creating a productive state of disequilibrium. Discomfort is needed for growth, and so on. For more on this productive state, click HERE
The questions that you, as the sponsor for change, must ask is, “Now that the change is implemented and sustained, what is the nature of secondary changes within this organization? What are they? Are they vital to mission success? Are they time-sensitive? Will they compound over time and become difficult to deal with?” And most importantly, “Are there issues that I cannot see?”
There likely are. This is why gathering input from every level in an organization is critical to success. There are people at every tier of an organization’s structure that has different experiences, something to learn, and something to teach. Perhaps they know more about the nature of a certain issue they experience than you do.
Dealing with, and adapting to, these issues as they arise in the Implementation stage is usually the best option. This is because the organization has not yet become accustomed to its new culture, system, or role, and can change more quickly to adapt to these pressing matters. However, many issues don’t fully present themselves until a change is sustained and tested over time.
Question 3: Was the change timely (slower or quicker than expected)? Why?
Your expectations make a big difference here. Ultimately, the accuracy of timing a change comes down to your team’s willingness and commitment to change. More commitment defines a lowered onset and implementation cycle.
A change that happens significantly slower than expected is usually the result of either high employee resistance or the lack of awareness of a timeline. Consider the following two requests and tell me which seems to induce more urgency, commitment, and desire to change.
1) Hey Tim, I hope your teams are doing well! We will need to begin using the restructured communication channels that we talked about soon! Thanks!
2) Hey Tim, I hope your teams are doing well! We will need to begin using the restructured communication channels that we discussed by the 28th of this month, mandatory. As you know, our vision for a better future is to streamline communications and make everyone richer with information. These changes have been designed to increase workflow efficiency and decrease bottlenecks! Ultimately, they will help you to more efficiently handle your teams and make sound judgments Thanks!
Notice: The second message, despite being longer, is much more clear, concise, and motivating. I not only gave Tim a timeline (of which I can enforce accountability) but also shared the vision, benefits, and personal benefits of the change. All within a short 3-sentence email.
The most important thing for creating timely change is providing a structured timeline, and enforcing it. In the first scenario, Tim could easily have rattled of reasons for not changing because the need was not urgent to him. There was no timeline to follow, or benefits to be made readily apparent.
Change that happens more quickly than expected is usually not an issue unless there is a ripple that occurs throughout the organization which affects the performance of others.
For example, one team that adopts change quickly may not be able to perform well with a team that is struggling due to a difference in function, resources, etc.
Remember, creating awareness and desire is always the best starting point for creating change. Period. Providing a timeline allows you to schedule it, communicate it ni actionable steps, and enforce it.
Question 4: How intuitive was the change?
When you implemented the change, how well was it initially received? Could people immediately begin utilizing the new systems, resources, or plans? Did the training you provided (or didn’t) become critical or not?
Intuition is someone’s ability to understand and make use of something without conscious reasoning. Something Apple Co. tries to do is make its devices as intuitive as possible. They want to make it easy to use and unique in order to decrease switching costs for them in a consumer market (intuition), but increase switching costs for their competition (unique, specialized systems).
Switching costs are the inherent cost that a consumer incurs by switching brands. These costs can be both quantified and theoretical. For example, leaving a contract early and paying a cancellation fee in order to choose a different service is a quantifiable switching cost.
In the case of Apple computers, becoming accustomed to the layout, controls, and functions is a theoretical switching cost to choosing any other computer with different controls.
Your change is similar. There are “switching costs” that are inherently incurred during a change. Switching from one system to another may require different skills, knowledge, or abilities. What switching costs boil down to is the possibility of increased resistance. Intuition is the best way to guard against it.
By creating an intuitive change system, you will be giving employees less of a reason to avoid implementation. It’s as simple as that.
Building intuitive change systems is another great way to increase autonomy, build trust, avoid the perceived risk of change by employees, and change more quickly.
So, how do you do that? How can we build an intuitive change? Well, we first need to discuss change in the context of its total components. Those are 1) the actual thing that is being changed, and 2) the change process itself.
Hopefully, your new system is intuitive, depending on what it is and what your organization needs, that is up to the system designers. However, when it comes to creating an intuitive change process, I can help.
Intuitive change processes contain the following characteristics:
1. They are logically divided into actionable steps. (and are communicated as such)
2. They communicate safety and reinforce employee commitment. (psychological safety)
3. They follow a logical method of implementation. (First things first)
Notice that these are all things you have already discussed in previous questions. Considering the intuitive nature of the change after the fact is a great way to reflect on how to make the change process more intuitive for your organization in the future.
Question 5: How did change ultimately affect the company culture?
Company culture, despite being traditionally solid is still susceptible to change. Considering how the change affected your culture is a great way to understand the ins and outs of how change has affected your employees.
It is often said that a company’s culture is “the shared ethos of an organization.” It is the values, goals, attitudes, and behaviors that contribute to the social and psychological factors of organizational life.
In an article by Wharton, they mention that there are four major side effects of culture change that can become apparent in an organization.
1. Ambivalent Leadership.
As change occurs, and culture is altered, there is inherent discomfort and ambiguity in an organization. This may cause leaders to enforce hierarchical authority in ways that may be counterintuitive to increasing commitment.
2. Exaggerated Polar Differences Between the Old and New Organization.
The old organization is often posed as “bad” and the new organization (the desired future) is posed as “good” in order to make the change more resounding. The issue is that exaggerating these viewpoints may cause undue false images to form in the minds of people.
When issues arise, people are quick to blame. It is important to remember that issues are not only common but expected in a time of change. The key to resolving issues with understanding is recognizing when an issue may or may not be an organic and inescapable part of the change process.
As change occurs, sometimes the opposite effect takes place. Greg Shea, Wharton adjunct professor of management, gives the example of organizational-flattening. As the organization flattens, they monitor the change using hierarchical methods, creating what Shea calls a “behavioral inversion.”
Ultimately, culture is the effect that change has on people and their behaviors within your organization. Ensuring that your people maintain positivity, purpose, and shared values will ensure they behave beneficially through the process of change.
All in all, consider your corporate culture. Are there things you will have to change to promote a commonly shared view among your own teams? Often, an executive team that implements a culture change sees little of the effect it has on operations-level employees. How can you remind yourselves of this effect in order to consistently behave with those interests in mind?.
Question 6: Were there “cultural compromises?”
Cultural compromises are the issues facing behavioral change that occurs during the implementation process. These compromises may not be exactly quantifiable but will affect the culture of the organization over the long term.
Although it may be a rudimentary example, I believe it is extremely significant for explaining cultural compromises so, consider marriage. If you have ever had a conflict in your relationships, the commonly held belief is that compromise needs to occur from both sides.
In my book The Potential Dichotomy: The Philosophy of a Fulfilling Life, I make the point that any conflict occurs due to a difference in values. These values can be established by culture, religion, etc.
Your organization is no different. During the change process, there are points at which the culture of the “old” organization and the “new” organization rub the wrong way. Cultural compromises occur when these issues come to light and require an immediate solution.
This begs the question, “Do I compromise or adjust?” The answer will depend on the nature of the compromise.
Compromises occur when an organization is willing to give up something in order to get something else. This often stems from limited resources, adaptability, or time. The reason Jack Welch decided to pull back production from many of GE’s products was because he couldn’t be #1 in every market.
Cultural compromises often come in the form of focus and priorities. During the implementation process, at what points or times did you have to shift resources to meet demands? Did you have to shift behaviors or processes to better adapt to the change? What were the opportunity costs of those shifts?
Keeping tabs on these compromises is beneficial to ensuring that your decision best reflects the interests of the employees and the company also.
Question 7: How did change alter the company functionally? Think cash flow, information management, value/supply chain, etc.
Stepping away from culture, how exactly did the change affect the functionality of the company? How are the processes different? And more importantly, how are these processes reflective of consumer desires? Or, in the least, how do these processes now affect the organization’s ability to provide value?
Change management itself is the process of handling processes. Recognizing where your company lies in terms of its altered functionality gives you a great perspective as to how functional, beneficial, or effective the change process has been in implementing your vision.
Consider functionality in terms of the following things:
Is there now a new system for handling monetary value or exchange? How does that distribute among the organization (it always does in some respect)? For example, a change in ERP systems may alter the way a company pays for materials, labor, or production itself.
Consider the nature of information in an organization. How do communication channels exist in light of the sustained change? Are there bottlenecks that are becoming increasingly apparent? How mobile is information within your organization? Does it travel quickly? Does it skip levels of management? Should it?
Where has the change affected the value chain? This question was asked earlier in terms of planning for change, but it should be asked again to determine the nature of connectivity among business processes. Essentially, how has the change now affected the organization’s ability to sustain a profit from all of its internal practices?
The supply chain is, in fact, very related to the cash flow process. The only difference being the focus on production capacity, distribution, and supply of materials as opposed to the cost of production, distribution, and materials. Ultimately, how has the change affected the way an organization gathers the necessary resources to continue production?
Recognizing the new functionality of the organization is beneficial to understanding the impact that change has based on related business practices.
Perhaps a change in financial systems benefitted marketing or sales somehow! Understanding why this occurred could allow you to further capitalize on the new-found benefit.
Similarly, if the change in financial systems negatively impacted other parts of the organization, understanding why this happened could help you adjust and mitigate the issues.
Question 8: Who represented the most resistance to change? Why? How can you prepare for that in the future?
During the change process, you undoubtedly faced resistance. Resistance is so common and so vital to change management that it quite literally defines the job itself.
The importance of recognizing resistance after the fact is seen in your ability to prepare for a change in the future. In today’s world, with technology the way that it is, change is not only called for but necessary to keep a competitive market environment.
Organizational change is only effectively resisted by the people whose lives or systems are affected by the change itself. Effective resistance occurs when new organizational changes are not being implemented as they are intended to be. Therefore, it stands to reason that although change may be resisted by extraneous people, only those who have the duty of implementing change can provide effective resistance.
Consider who gave change the greatest resistance and why. Discovering these things can make you more aware as a business leader of the nature of your organization, its ability to change, and your ability to affect it.
Answer a few of the following questions designed to provide a catalyst for understanding resistance and your ability to manage it for future changes. Remember, resistance is always a factor of either awareness, desire, or knowledge.
1. Which parts of the change did people seem to resist most? Why?
2. Did we effectively communicate the purpose for change?
3. Did we effectively communicate the benefits of change?
4. Did we effectively communicate the timeline of change?
5. Did we communicate the benefits for our employees?
6. Did we address (and provide) the skills or knowledge required to change?
7. How did we enforce the change among employees?
Understanding why people resist change tells you a great deal about your organization and the change-aversion that it originally had. Is that change-aversion still part of the new culture that is formed? If yes, you will have to work harder to address it during future changes.
Question 9: How operative were communication channels?
You set up dedicated two-way communication channels before the implementation process. It is time to decide how effective they were at conveying the intended messages.
I mentioned before that employees require an average of seven “touches” before a message takes hold. A touch can be as simple as a newsletter and as complex as a dedicated change-enforcement team. It can be as quick as a 1-hour breakout session or as long as a multi-day retreat. What matters is that the employees notice it and entertain the thought of change.
Your communication channels should have been open from both directions. That is to say that employees should be able to make inquiries from management and management should have been able to gather data from employees.
Now that change has been implemented, how well did those channels work? Which were the most effective and why?
It is important to recognize the most effective communication channels so that you can focus on them in the future. You may even want to leave these channels open to encourage continued communication throughout the organization and form it into the culture.
Although organizational change itself is a risky process, it can also be a good time to test various methods of communication upon which to base future business operations. In this way, change acts as an opportunity to try a variety of communication methods that allow you to pick and choose the most effective ones for your organization.
Do your due diligence into the lives of managers and employees to determine which methods they enjoyed and had the most impact. Utilize these methods in the future.
Question 10: What would you have ultimately done differently?
This is the last question of the entire series and, naturally, is very open-ended. I cannot answer it for you, nor can I give many suggestions as to the answer you may have. There is a vast array of variables within organizational change.
Therefore, due to the ambiguity of this final question, we will be discussing the benefit of reflective thought and problem-solving. Consider the following article I wrote titled, How To Solve Any Problem You Have (Ever). This article merely outlines the mentality necessary to resolve issues within yourself or your organization.
Here are the 6 main questions to ask yourself to form a problem-solving mentality:
1. Where are you now?
2. What do you want?
3. How can you measure your success?
4. What could go wrong?
5. What is this worth?
6. What is (and is not) within your power to change?
Envision the process you took to change your organization. What went well? What did not? and why?
Often I see people focus on what is wrong without first asking why it is wrong. Only when we understand the nature behind an issue can we hope to break it down into manageable components and attack it with the Pareto principle in mind.
80% of any issue you face can be resolved with 20% worth of effort. This is why it is so vital to focus on the biggest chunks of an issue. And you can only do that by first asking why the issue has come about in the first place.
So, there you have it! This has been nearly 60 focus questions that will aid you in creating a foundation, learning about your organization, planning the change, implementing the change, sustaining the change, and adjusting for the future.
Hopefully, I have been able to help your organization and/or business life with these tips. Be sure to check back for my new book, The Change-Management Guidebook, with more info and ideas!
Thank you for reading!