It has been estimated that less than half of all organizational change efforts are successful. You’d think that the world we live in today, with all of its technology and knowledge, would have caused us to be much more effective at altering the behaviors of individuals and, cohesively, an organization. Performing a change-readiness assessment is your key to saving time, money, and effort.
But, the truth is, organizational behaviors are difficult to change due to the natures of habit, comfort, and fear. And as these behaviors continue being guided by the nature of our subconscious mind, change becomes more difficult to enforce.
Jeffrey Hiatt, the author of the ADKAR change model, mentions that the most important aspect of change management is being able to influence just one individual at a time. Ultimately, influencing key players in the field of upper-management will cause a trickle-down effect that influences others below them in the organizational hierarchy as well.
This is important because it outlines one of the key ways to measure and enforce organizational change-readiness. Change-readiness is exactly what it sounds like – it is the nature of an organization that has a willingness, commitment, and direction for organizational change.
Today we will be discussing the various factors that influence organizational change-readiness, as well as the tools and resources you have to augment it!
The Importance of Analyzing Change-Readiness
Due to the high failure rate of organizational change efforts, it becomes doubly important to assess and analyze an organization that is either about to undergo change or is in the process of doing so.
Why is this important? Well, properly analyzing the change-readiness of an organization will shed light on the issues the organization will face during change, the strengths the organization has to aid them in change, the current state of commitment or ability to change, and much more.
This is extremely useful because this means that your organization has the potential to delegate resources more efficiently, and focus only on the change efforts that make most of the difference. For example, would you continue to expend company resources to promote the awareness that a change is necessary when your organization’s true issue lies in developing a desire to change? Doing so is like throwing away money at something that has hit its point of diminishing returns.
Essentially, the point of diminishing returns occurs at all stages of the change process. And the more money you feed to those areas will not equate to a proportional return on investment.
Analyzing change-readiness is the best way to uncover and focus on the change factors that make a true difference! This way you will save money, be more effective, and create change more quickly and efficiently
Factors that Influence Change-Readiness
Here we will be discussing some key factors that influence change-readiness and how you can assess them. I mention in my book, The Essential Change Management Guidebook, that all change-factors are either internal or external. Let’s review.
Internal Factors: The various forces that influence change from within an organization and is under the organization’s direct control. (Mission/Vision, Leadership, Technology, Organizational Structure, People, Systems, Conditions, etc.)
External Factors: Forces that are outside of direct organizational control, yet have an effect on organizational change. (Customers, Competition, Economy, Politics, Social Conditions, etc.)
Ultimately, all change influencers are categorized by one of these points. It is a dichotomy of change readiness, so to speak. However, we will focus solely on internal factors merely because external environmental factors are outside of your direct control, and only internal factors of change are controllable and prepare-able by organizational leaders.
Let’s focus on some internal factors.
Your organization is unique, there’s no way around it. Culture is considered the shared ethos of an organization. It is the blend of actions, thoughts, mindsets, and reasons the organization provides value in the way it does.
Culture is an expansive area of organizational behavior. This is because it is not quick to change, but almost limitless in possibility. Every organization in every industry in any country has a different culture. And each one is influenced by different things.
Culture can be analyzed by determining what the focus of your organization is. For example, most non-profit service-based organizations have the focus of serving customers the best way that they can.
Apple Computers, for example, is a culture based in innovation and “disrupting the status quo.”
Deciding what your culture is like, and how it may be influenced by your change efforts, is a great way to analyze the change-readiness of your organization. Consider Berkshire Hathaway. Everything they do revolves around stability. In fact, they keep their share prices extraordinarily high just to dissuade day traders from creating volatile price swings. This stability is often a sign that large change efforts are not going to be received with open arms.
Don’t you think that the culture of Berkshire Hathaway makes them LESS change-ready than the culture at, let’s say, Google or Apple Co? I certainly believe so.
Here is another example of the way in which culture is taken account of by change-managers. Let’s say you walk into an office, and this is what you see. Formal greetings, closed-off office spaces, and secretaries.
What does this say to me, a change-management consultant? It says that this is a traditional, hierarchical corporate structure in which communications must be prepared before they are relayed. There is no sense of informality or direct communications that occur (due to the presence of secretaries who often filter out the noise for executives). And, ultimately, communication efforts will likely have to follow certain guidelines within the formality of the organization which may slow down communication as opposed to informal cultures, but, this could increase commitment through the perceived seriousness of the executive sponsor.
Informality and seriousness don’t go hand in hand. So the benefit of a formal culture is that most people will take the executive change-sponsor very seriously regarding the need for change. However, communications may be difficult to maintain or execute quickly due to the filtering nature of a steep organizational hierarchy with proverbial “filters” (secretaries) of information.
Organizational values are the abstract ideas that are normally maintained with the goal of guiding organizational behaviors and thought-processes. Maintaining a strong set of values is a good way to communicate a common belief system among all people within an organization.
For example, take Costco Wholesale. They make their values extremely clear in their mission statements. 1) Obey the law, 2) take care of our members, 3) take care of our employees, 4) respect our vendors.
Nobody would argue that a person employed by Costco wholesale who does the lawful thing in a difficult situation would be accoladed! This is the power of commonly shared values. They are guides to thinking and behaviors.
It is important, considering the nature of change-readiness, that your organization truly operates under its intended value system. Are their hidden values that may b enforced that shadow the others? We often hear about organizations that promote public values but enforce other ones (such as cost-saving at the expense of employees, for example).
Not to mention, values often can be changed from department to department based in large and decentralized organizations.
Keeping tabs on your values and the way your organization enforces them is a great way to determine how change-ready your organization is, let alone how to make the change seem logical and in-line with values.
Perhaps Costco must enforce a change that re-aligns it with new local laws or ordinances, the employees likely understand the importance of that change and can begin to implement it without much change-effort merely because they understand the nature of Costco and how it values obeying the law!
Leadership/management styles are good indicators of change-readiness due to their inherently individualistic focus. All change is a matter of individuals, remember? And the ways leadership and management communicate, enforce, and delegate make a big difference to the change-readiness of an organization overall.
Often, taking the time to analyze and witness an organization at work will tell you a lot about the culture of how it operates. There are many different styles of leadership that can be effective in an organization. There are leaders who take full accountability, leaders who promote freedom within their teams, leaders who facilitate team discussion so others can come up with good ideas, etc.
Varying leadership styles will dictate communication efforts, individual motivations, team autonomy, and so much more.
Previous Change Initiatives
Previous change initiatives and whether or not they were successful play a large part in the psychological safety and trust of the individuals within your organization. Individuals within your organization always remember a failed change, and it can cause them to be resistant in the future due to the idea that change has not been truly necessary or properly enforced.
These thoughts can be damaging to an organization’s change efforts because the logic is as follows. “we didn’t change before, we shouldn’t have to change now. It is easier to just do what we always do than try and fail to make a change once again.”
Likely, the best way to get around this issue is to hold break-out sessions. In these sessions, it is common for a team to, in confidentiality, write their concerns on a piece of paper and have leaders address them all at once. Doing so is great for building trust, uncovering issues that may not have been present before, and generating buy-in from all individuals within the team.
Change-readiness competencies are the skills and internal abilities of your organization to adapt quickly and efficiently to the change you are attempting to introduce. For example, if your teams are highly competent in autonomous productivity, then basing a change on decentralization is likely going to be received well and with minimal resistance.
A large part of change-competent organizations is their ability to be adaptive, communicate well, and form good relationships with the various departments that are relevant to change procedures.
For example, many changes require, at the minimum, the following things.
Organizational change requirements:
1. Efficient Internal Communications
2. Project Management/Sponsorship
3. IT for technological support/tools
4. Learning and development/coaching for support systems
5. HR changes to contracts, job descriptions, salaries, etc.
Be sure to have these various functions set-up and ready to provide value and service during the change. Doing so will keep the change efforts clear and away from the clutter of remedial work. It will also often provide accountability for individual change actions and processes and clarification of duties and values.
These are some of the key ways in which you can analyze your own organizational change-readiness! Hopefully, they have provided informative and useful guidelines with which to aid you in being more resourceful and efficient in your own change process.
Remember, change-readiness assessments are important in determining how an organization will struggle during change, and what that same organization’s strengths will be. Learning this allows you to prepare for the issues beforehand, and leverage strengths during the process.
A change-ready organization that has a difficult time learning will need more coaching as opposed to awareness, by employing a change-readiness assessment, you will be focusing on the factors that make the largest difference as opposed to those which provide diminishing returns.
You must: Examine your culture, clarify your values, direct your leadership, examine previous change initiatives, and uncover your competencies to measure change-readiness!
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.