To be effective at implementing change, choosing the proper relevant metrics for change is absolutely critical. Only when an organization can measure change along the path towards complete and autonomous implementation will that organization reach the end of the change-implementation cycle.
No amount of action or experimentation is useful without the cold-hard facts and data. Without knowing which actions produce which results, we could get nowhere with our respective hypotheses.
This is a proper allusion to the importance of setting dedicated milestones in your roadmap towards success. Setting progress-markers and goals is a quintessential part of aligning an organization’s processes, actions, and performance characteristics during change.
There must be a rhyme and reason for deciding how to quantify change, and despite how important quantifiable data is, many of the variables that you may experience during the planning and implementation of change are simply unquantifiable (trust, for example).
This is not to say that change is entirely unpredictable and uncontrollable. Studies have shown that with proper change management, the measly >50% change-implementation rate can be heightened to roughly 96%! This is due to proper planning and careful consideration of the main variables to organizational change that we will discuss today.
Armed with the knowledge of change variables and of the various things that impact an organization’s ability to change, we can focus on the factors that prove, without the shadow of a doubt, that change is successfully underway in your organization.
Overall, this post will describe how to measure an organizational change in terms of your metrics (fundamental performance analytics), planning, and adherence to your project roadmap.
The metrics your organization employs to quantify change will certainly be the most influential guiding light over the success of the organizational change strategy.
Why? Well, these metrics are indisputable, that is to say, they can’t easily be argued with or written off as a matter of differing perception in the ways that other organizational change-indicators are.
Another reason these indicators are important is often because they directly relate to the desired end-result of a change effort.
Change should only occur (willingly) in an organization with the goal of improving something in some way or another, therefore, change metrics must be put in place to measure these things in order to create goals and define success overall.
For example, if my change efforts were entirely centered on increasing employee performance, I’d have to choose exactly which metrics to track in order to do so.
Metrics that pertain to important performance characteristics are, therefore, directly relevant to my goal. For example, I could choose metrics like average dollar return on labor hour, increased efficiency (% more work done in a day), or increased effectiveness (% more sales/etc. done in a day).
The importance of these change metrics can’t be understated. They will likely become the main force for aligning change within your organization.
The overall purpose of choosing quantifiable metrics is to break down the larger goal into smaller bite-sized steps. These steps will, hopefully, act as your guiding light during the change process and allow you to focus on the effectiveness of certain change strategies or actions.
So, how can you choose these metrics? Simple. All you have to do is ask, “What is this change designed to improve in our business? And what things can we track that relate to that?” You could also ask yourself, “What is putting pressure on this organization to change? And how can we relieve that pressure?
These questions will align your thinking with the factors that matter most to your organization during the change process. By considering these factors beforehand, and choosing your metrics carefully, you will mitigate plenty of the risk associated with a change that is off-track of its intended purpose.
Planning is another way that you can get a feel for the effectiveness of change within your organization. As you implement the change, you can measure your performance along the way by using the original plans as reference points.
The only issue that might be had in terms of planning is also one that is commonly present in leadership during change efforts. That issue is unrealistic expectations.
Having an unrealistic sense of change implementation as you create your plans can cause you to create wildly optimistic change-implementation times. That is to say, you may expedite every change activity that must be completed without accounting for natural or recurring resistance from within your organization.
Resistance is inevitable in some way or another. It may be better or worse than you imagine it. Proper plans are realistic, actionable, and do not present undue optimism in order to prevent debilitating expectations to be placed upon the company.
Another risk of improper planning is in resource delegation. A change manager’s job is to delegate an organization’s resources properly throughout the change process. Plans that are too optimistic may leave little or no reserve resources behind to be used where there may be the emerging need for them.
For example, let’s say we plan a change implementation cycle of 3 months. Most organizations prepare enough resources (money and time) for 3 months of contingency effort to supplement the change. (I usually recommend at least an extra 1/3rd of resources for safety).
However, let’s say that the change goes overboard and resistance causes the implementation cycle to hit 4 months instead. That contingency 3-month budget is now useless for an entire month of the change implementation process. That is a month without training, coaching, resources, materials, and other things that could develop better performance, communication, and ROI during the change process.
Ultimately, the plans you make are a great way to determine the course of change and if the change is being implemented in the way you wish. Using your plans as a checklist of sorts is a great way to prioritize certain activities and ensure that your organization focuses on what matters most.
By doing this, you can get a great sense for the effectiveness of change within your organization, and will allow you to measure the change in a semi-concrete fashion. (less concrete than quantifiable data (ROI), more concrete than perceptive data (i.e. culture, trust, etc.))
Timing (adherence to project roadmap/onset times)
The timing of a change is very important. One of the most common change-management mistakes is failing to properly consider the timing of change efforts and the impact that timing will have on an organization. The other most common timing mistake is misjudging just how long the implementation of a change will take.
Allow me to pull an example from my book The Essential Change Management Guidebook: Master the Art of Organizational Change.
“You can [time your change] effectively by locating patterns of behavior both within your organization and within the market, which may affect your ability to change efficiently. You must measure these patterns against your organization’s security and needs.
For example, attempting to create a massive change during the off-season for a product or service may mean that your employees have more time for coaching and implementation practices. This way, change can be implemented more quickly and with more focus than during busier times of the year.
However, there is always a sense of give and take when considering the best time to implement change. Implementing during the off-season for a product or service could be costly to an organization that is not financially stable. This is because resources are being expended during a time of reduced revenue.” – Austin Denison, The Essential Change Management Guidebook: Master the Art of Organizational Change
Essentially, timing can be critical to an organization’s stability during change depending on its resources and the profit-flexibility of the organization itself.
A larger company often has scaled resources that are necessary to provide more stability during times of change. These companies do not have to worry as much about the timing of change unless they are seeking out the most efficient route possible from the organization’s current state to its desired future state.
These larger companies are often more profit-flexible, meaning they have revenue sources that are not affected by change efforts that often allow them to fall back on for support during an unprecedentedly long change-implementation cycle.
The roadmap that you create for change is going to be critical in this instance. This is because your roadmap (combined with your plans) is like a schedule-book. It should tell you exactly what needs to be done and when.
Using your roadmap as a reference will allow you to measure the nature fo change within your organization in real-time and determine if the change is on or off track. You can then prepare accordingly.
Failing to keep a schedule or documented timeframe for your change-implementation plans is a great way to become less efficient during the onset of change, and especially if you run into unplanned resistance.
Timing is one of the main ways to measure efficiency during an organizational change, that is, the efficiency of the change efforts and your ability, as an organization, to implement change effectively.
Proper planning will certainly help with this, as will conducting a change-readiness assessment which you can learn to do by clicking HERE!
Ultimately, these main factors will help you get the most concrete sense of change and its effectiveness within your organization. Your ability to implement change successfully will entirely revolve around your ability to plan for the unexpected, choose proper metrics, and measure change along the way with small, actionable, goals.
Remember, change is, by its very nature, unpredictable. So it is your job to make it as predictable and prepare-able as possible. With these methods of measuring an organizational change in a concrete and semi-concrete fashion, you can guide your organization through the confusion and issues that come along with a change in order to reach a more beneficial (and profitable) future.
Thanks for reading!
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-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.