Checklist for Change Readiness
Check out almost any webinar or conference session about Organizational Change Management (OCM) and you’re almost certain to hear something about the topic of change readiness. This term, widely used but rarely defined very well, is actually a very simple concept. Change readiness is the current level of preparedness of an organization to succeed at any given change. OCM practitioners have a number of different measures to determine the level of readiness, but it’s often an underrated and underused part of the organizational change management process. Understanding an organization’s readiness for change will enable you to determine the appropriate level of OCM support that will be needed throughout the course of your project.
There are several things you can do to get an appropriate “read” without delaying the project or tying up resources for weeks or months of exhaustive preliminary work.
Understanding the size and scope of the change: might seem very obvious, but you’d be surprised how many project teams really don’t have good insight into the basics when they kick off an initiative. When you start a project, try to ensure you have comprehensive answers to foundational questions such as who, what, when, where and why of the change. This information seems very obvious, but these questions are often answered superficially. This exercise quickly brings to light any misalignment you may have with your senior management team or project leadership.
Understanding the culture of the organization: will enable you to see potential cultural issues that may cause delays or cause employees to completely reject the change you are proposing. Cultural assessments should examine organizational perception. You can get a pre-written culture assessment from almost any OCM methodology. They typically include questions such as:
o Has the change been attempted in the past and failed?
o How many other transformations/changes are happening at the same time?
o How does your leadership perceive change? Are new ideas and new thinking often rewarded?
o How well do your middle managers lead change?
o How do employees typically react when they are asked to make a change in the organization?
o On a scale of 1-10, how well does your organization communicate?
Leadership preparedness: is a fundamental part of any Organizational Change Management (OCM) initiative and should be monitored as part of your readiness assessment, particularly if you choose to take part in readiness activities early in your project lifecycle. Oftentimes, change management practitioners will work with sponsors or leadership team members as part of the OCM process. This includes creating a plan, coaching and monitoring roadmap activities. However, it can be extremely beneficial to sit down with key members of leadership to determine their perception and willingness to support the initiative. These two-way, information-gathering sessions can provide a multitude of insights to you about how people in the organization really feel about the impending change they are being asked to be part of and flag potential political issues that may sideline your work.
Quantitative measures – tell you if the change is actually viable. Quantitative measures generally include questions such as:
o Can we afford the resources that will be required?
o Is the change initiative well-funded?
o Are we in a position to upgrade service levels?
These are important considerations that are simply part of the reality of making change work. Having the right attitude is great, but at the end of the day, you need to ensure you have the resources in place to support what you are trying to do.
Pulse surveys prior to go-live – are also a great way to “check-in” on current stakeholder perception. The beauty of a pulse survey is that it can be easily done at almost any point in the project. Pulse surveys done later in the project can help verify whether or not readiness levels have changed throughout the course of the implementation or alert you to potential issues that could arise as you near your go-live date.
Once the change readiness assessment(s) are complete, sponsors and steering committee members can determine if any action needs to be taken such as delaying a go-live until the organization is in a better position to fully accept the change. Although most change readiness assessments are done early in the project, timing may vary depending on the methodology you choose to follow. Regardless of your overall approach, taking the time to gather information and analyze perceptions can help support good quality outcomes for your project.