Organizations undergo change all the time. Some changes are small with little long-term impact on the day-to-day functioning of the company. Others are monumental, requiring the entire organization to (re)align themselves with the new reality for the change to successfully occur. And therein lies THE most important factor in implementing change: the targeted audience’s (individual, group, organization) readiness to accept and adopt the change.
This is something that companies often overlook in the eagerness to unveil something new. And the best time to assess an organization’s readiness for change is ideally before you finalize the change (select the new technology, reorganize the company, make a major change in strategy, etc.), and definitely before you begin implementing it.
Many companies stumble over how to assess their organizational readiness for change. Common concerns include:
- Understanding how to understand and establish organizational readiness.
- The disparity between current and desired state.
- The value of investing in organizational readiness.
To set up for success, there are two important assessments to undertake before heading down the new path.
First, is understanding what the scope and size of the change is/will be. Creating this baseline of understanding of what is involved in moving to the new state is an important step.
- What is the scope of the change (department, division, entire organization)?
- What type of change is it (process, technology, organization, job roles, merger, strategy)?
- What is the delta from where we are today?
- How many employees will be impacted?
- How will employees be impacted?
- What is the purpose of the change?
These are also likely the first questions employees are going to want to know the answers to.
Then, once the who, what, where, when, why of the change have been established, it is time to dig deeper to determine if the organization itself is ready for the change. Companies have their own personalities that can either make change management seem like a walk in the park or an uphill marathon. Understanding where your company lies on that spectrum so that you can adequately prepare and educate your change agents (managers, leadership, project team) on potential obstacles will help make even the toughest audience easier to get on board. This preparation includes understanding an organization’s:
- Culture and value system.
- Capacity for change.
- Leadership styles.
- Employee readiness for change
- Middle management’s degree of enthusiasm for the change.
Organizations typically have a limited capacity for change – that limit is variable from one company to the next, but there will be a limit. If your organization has gone through a major shift recently, or is still in the midst of one, then adding yet another layer of change can be even more difficult than usual. How a company reacts to change is part of its upbringing, and has to be acknowledged and considered when planning the rollout. But unlike DNA, behaviors can be modified, over time, to be change ready, rather than change reactive.
Change the way you manage change
Ensuring or establishing a culture to be in a state of change readiness requires first understanding the current state of organization to accept and adapt to change. According to Harvard Business Review, there are four determinants that can help you know whether your company is change-ready:
Change Awareness. Change Awareness is a company’s ability to redefine itself as necessary. Is your company forward-thinking – considering and evaluating new market trends, opportunities, and shifts, and adapting accordingly?
Change Agility. Change agility represents your company’s ability to engage people in pending changes. How agile is your company in its ability to adapt to the identified market changes? How effective are your managers at engaging and delivering the changes envisioned by your decision makers? How well does your company actually facilitate and execute on change when it is needed?
Change Reaction. Change reaction is the ability to appropriately analyze problems, assess risks, and manage the reactions of employees. How effectively do you and other leaders at your company assess risk and manage unplanned change? How well does your organization react and respond to crisis?
Change Mechanisms. Change Mechanisms should encourage clear goal alignment across functions, the ability to integrate a change into existing systems, accountability for results, and reward systems that reinforce desired change behaviors. Are your structures and systems flexible enough to adapt and support the implementation of change? Does your organization have the structures and systems in place to support the successful implementation of change?
With today’s exacerbated rate of change, the companies most likely to succeed are those that are ready to take advantage of the ebbs and flows that affect their business. It is companies that see changes (in processes, technology, trends) as constant opportunities to evolve their business, rather than individual events that need to be managed, that are best prepared for what tomorrow may bring.