“Taking the temperature” of your organization is a simple term used to describe the process of diagnosing issues or the effectiveness of activities within your business by gathering information. Simply put, “taking the temperature” means you are analyzing the effect of change in some form in your organization.
An organization will change to its respective environment and stimuli whether the organization’s leaders want it to or not. Change is inevitable within business, especially with today’s modern technology that is ever-evolving.
Therefore, it is the job of leaders to diagnose and respond to stimuli in order to keep the organization’s mission and spirit intact. If change is inevitable, it is worth the time and effort to change in a way that is stable, controlled, and with strategic direction.
Therefore, in today’s post, we will be discussing the various ways you can “take the temperature” or gather information about change within your organization. Performing this assessment with accuracy and timeliness will ensure that you can plan and react to various market conditions and forces for change with security and assurance of success.
I’ve gathered information on these types of change-meters within The Effective Change Managers Handbook.
Methods of Gathering Information
There are numerous methods of gathering information within an organization. In fact, there are so many that we couldn’t possibly list all of them in one post. So, today, I will be going over the most common methods that change managers and other business leaders utilize within their organizations.
We will be discussing 4 main methods for gathering information during times of change. Those methods are…
Methods to “take the temperature” of your organization:
1. Pulse Surveys
2. One-Off Surveys
3. Focus Groups
4. Individual Interviews
These methods each use different characteristics that make them either more or less appropriate given the situation. It is necessary during times of change to utilize thee methods carefully and with consideration for their effectiveness in certain scenarios. Failing to do so may lead to a waste of time and resources by using the wrong method to track the wrong variable.
now, let’s discover the details on how to use these methods to gather information based on the uniqueness of each situation that your organization might find itself in.
Pulse surveys are exactly what they sound like. They are short, potentially repetitive, and surface-level methods for gathering information. Although they don’t fly into too much depth, they are useful in quantity because they are quick and easily distributed surveys.
These types of surveys, due to their quick and easy nature, are often used as repetitive “pings” throughout an organization in times of change to monitor basic information and employee mindsets. They are the surveys that are repeated most often throughout the change process.
So, what does a survey like this consist of? Pulse surveys are often based on short, quick (or yes/no) answers designed to take an overarching view of organizational health. They are often designed to be done weekly or bi-weekly in order to gather consistent information.
Pulse survey questions are simple, for example, a pulse survey question might look like this: “Are you looking forward to the new organizational change? yes/no?”
Pulse surveys can be done in a multitude of ways! Pulse surveys have been used during meetings by allowing people to place bits of paper into two separate containers. They can be fun and gather lots of information in a short amount of time without constant reinforcement. They are also easily interpretable.
One-Off surveys are surveys that are meant to gauge the changing of feelings or opinions at a specific period in time and from a larger group of people. These surveys are typically larger than pulse surveys, but not data-rich as focus groups can be.
One-Off surveys are quick and cheap due to the internet, there is now a litany of internet-based software that can help you create and distribute surveys to people within your organization.
One-Off surveys usually entail more than one question and more than one TYPE of question. If a pulse survey is a simple yes/no, a One-Off survey can be multiple questions with scaling-based answers (i.e. Likert scale). For example: “On a scale of 1-5, how confident are you in the change process?” You can also employe free-text answer choices.
The benefit of One-Off surveys is that they are quick to interpret yes/no answers, as well as Likert scale answers, however, free-text may have to be categorized and organized into relevant themes before you can begin to really interpret a mass opinion.
These One-Off surveys can be repeated at significant points of the change process in order to determine, overall, if employee behavior or beliefs are shifting along with the change in the desired manner.
A One-Off survey should still be relatively quick to complete. No more than 5-10 minutes at most. Due to the nature of One-Off surveys, it is important to remember that your survey questions are un-biasing and neutral in order to gather the most accurate information.
These surveys are dependent on having a large enough sample size in order to make accurate decisions about the attitudes and cultures of the organization itself. Therefore, keep in mind how many people you require to take the survey before you interpret any data.
Focus groups are one of the most common methods of gathering data-rich information. They are smaller in scale than One-Off surveys, but they make up for the lack of scale with a focus on depth. They often utilize fact-based information to dig into deep quantitative reasoning within a select few people.
Having a proper moderator for your focus group is an absolute necessity. It is important to keep in mind that this moderator should be unbiased, neutral, and support and uncover answers. This way, the individuals within the focus group are comfortable and willing to tell the truth in light of their experiences.
Focus group questions are generally more detailed and based on one’s experiences, opinions, or ideas. They often take much longer than One-Off surveys to perform, both because they are usually one hour long and because they only incorporate a group of 5-10 people maximum.
Any more than 5-10 people and the survey may start to get crowded and answers may be lost in abundance. Invite people whom you feel are comfortable with one another. Having a general manager and an employee in the same room while you ask a question regarding the quality of management may not get you the most honest answer.
The point of a focus group is to ask questions that take more explaining, and more emotional/interpersonal impact to analyze, That is why it is fairly important to do focus groups in person, so you can clarify any misunderstandings and dive into depth about a specific answer you receive.
It is necessary to set rules regarding the confidentiality of focus group sessions. This way, the participants will feel much more comfortable with being honest and descriptive with the potential issues they witness within the organization.
Generally, if you are the moderator and are taking notes that help you relay specific concerns with your group, you are doing a good job at recording key information. It is useful to hold multiple focus groups and determine if the issues that arise are based on hierarchy (level-based), job-based, or department-based issues.
For example, if a common theme that arises within your focus groups are complaints about management, that may be a hierarchical issue. Complaints about a specific job that arises among multiple people who perform that job may also need to be looked into. And finally, complaints among multiple people within a single department may warrant a change to that department.
The key consideration within focus groups is 1) what issues are being brought up, and 2) what’s the connection between people with the same issues?
Focus group questions can include, “Surveys show that 50% of people are not confident in the change process, why do you believe that is?
Finally, the last of the data-gathering methods we will discuss is individual interviews. Individual interviews are very important during any change process. That is because they relay a much more personal and data-rich response from the individuals who should be key stakeholders in terms of change management.
A key stakeholder, in terms of change management, is a person who is directly responsible for affecting the change process in some way or another. For example, the executive sponsor, and subsequent managers, are all key stakeholders who hold the future of the organization within their hands.
Individual interviews are beneficial for delving into more sensitive or personal topics where people may not want to relay their thoughts to the public.
These kinds of interviews are also useful in involving senior managers who may not want to participate in a focus group in fear of biasing employee answers.
The data that you can receive from individual interviews should be rich and personal to the individuals. Obviously, this data may not reflect the attitudes of the organization as a whole but can be useful to understand the demeanors and attitudes of key stakeholders and their work.
Questions to ask in individual interviews include “why” questions. These types of questions can help you dive further into the workings of a person’s thought process and, naturally, bring about solutions or awareness to issues.
Individual interview questions may include, “What are your own thoughts on the change process? Why do you think that way?”
Individual interviews are time-consuming but can also help build meaningful and trusting relationships with key players in the change process. It is important to purvey the notion that you are interviewing as collaborators and not as prosecutors.
In order to get the most out of individual interviews, try to meet in an informal place that keeps the power balance in check between you and the interviewer. Be sure to take notes during the process, and repeat back what you hear just to affirm that you understood each other correctly.
One of the other benefits of individual interviews is that you can ask a broad variety of questions, simply to determine where the thought process goes. Just keep in mind the overarching theme of the interview and what you intend to find answers for.
Here are the 4 main types of information-gathering tools and surveys that will help you “take the temperature” of your organization during times of change.
1. Pulse Surveys
2. One-Off Surveys
3. Focus Groups
4. Individual Interviews
Each has its benefits and disadvantages inherent to them. If you are looking for a detailed, interpersonal, and connected method for gathering information, individual interviews might be your best bet.
However, if you are in need of quick surface-level information, consider pulse surveys or, at the most, One-Off surveys! Focus groups lie in-between!
Hopefully, I was able to help you manage change more effectively, to get in touch with me, please call (951) 833-2987 or send me a message on my website.
Thanks for reading!
Work With Austin
-Austin Denison is a change management consultant from Southern California and founder/CEO of Denison Success Systems LLC. He is the author of The Essential Change Management Guidebook: Master The Art of Organizational Change as well as The Potential Dichotomy: The Philosophy of a Fulfilling Life.