You’re a senior leader or you’re a business owner in this age of unrelenting change.
As you lead your team, you know your company needs to undergo major change to remain profitable. You’re committed to using your significant organizational power to make the change happen.
You are not a bull in a china shop, however!
You know lasting change must be led and implemented in a thoughtful manner using an organizational change model like Kurt Lewin’s, Unfreeze Change Refreeze or John Kotter’s, Eight Steps for Leading Change.
Given all of this, you’re ready to go, right?
The answer is almost, but the success of your change effort can improve greatly if you are willing to do some assessment work first.
Why Do I Need to Do An Assessment Before I Make Significant Organizational Change?
I frequently find that many senior leaders and business owners know the importance of initiating and implementing change in a thoughtful manner. They are also committed to sponsoring the change with the authority that comes with their positions. Sometimes this is not enough however.
Where do these smart leaders sometimes fall short at times?
Many senior leaders under estimate the degree of effort it will take to implement and sustain meaningful organizational change. Being at the top of the organization, they are removed from some of the operational factors and people issues that can derail any change effort.
Many business owners are so caught up with keeping the business operational and profitable that they fail to take the time to plan their change efforts sufficiently before launching them.
In either case, the result for the company is often poor to average results from the change effort.
Is My Organization Ready for Change?
To better understand the dynamics within your organization that hinder change, you must get answers to the following three questions:
1. How ready are managers in my company for this organizational change?
For the Senior Leader: The support of managers at all levels of the organization is critical to the success of any organizational change effort. You’ll need to know where your direct reports truly stand in their support of your change effort.
Are they committed to supporting this change or are they just giving lip service?
You’ll also need to know what your middle and entry level managers feel about the proposed changes. Change efforts often stall at lower management levels in the organization.
Some of the information you will need to know to determine how ready your managers are for change are the following:
- Are your direct reports effective sponsors for this change?
- Do managers in your organization communicate effectively with their team members?
- Which managers will be major obstacles to implementing this change?
As you gather this information, you may find that you need to do some work with your managers before you begin an organizational change effort. Some organizational restructuring may even be necessary.
The alternative — forcing the change without addressing significant management obstacles — produces poor change outcomes.
For the Business Owner: If you’re a business owner with employees who manage part of your business, then you should follow the same steps above. However, you should also expand the definition of “manager” here to include your critical suppliers. Your critical suppliers are your outsourced managers.
- How ready are your suppliers to support your change needs?
- What type of customer service do you get from your supplier? How effective are they in their customer communication?
- Which supplier will be a major obstacle to implementing this change?
For example, your internet hosting company is part of your IT department. If you are planning a major expansion of your online presence, you’ll need to assess how ready they are for this change.
Here’s some things to consider:
- How reliable is their service?
- When problems occur do they provide clear answers on the reasons for the problems?
- Do they fix problems promptly?
- Are they reachable during off hours?
2. How ready is my organization for this change?
For the Senior Leader: Sometimes you may have the support of enough critical stakeholders to make meaningful organizational change. (Everyone can see the proverbial handwriting on the wall announcing the company’s doom if the company does not change!)
Despite this group wisdom, you still may not get the change outcomes that you need. In this situation you have an institutional problem not a human problem. In other words, your company is not ready for change because of its various policies, practices, and working culture.
Some of the information you will need to know to determine how ready your organization is for change are the following:
- Does your organization use specific measures to assess business performance?
- Does this change effort support other major activities in the organization?
- Does your organizational culture reward or punish people for being innovative, taking risks, and solving problems?
As you gather this information, you may identify some significant obstacles that require immediate attention before you launch an organizational change effort. This could be an operational or equipment change or reallocation of resources to support the pending change effort.
The alternative — launching the change without addressing significant organizational obstacles — fosters employee cynicism.
For the Business Owner: Your assessment of this area may be easier than what a large company needs to do. You’ll want to avoid the temptation to do a incomplete assessment in this area however.
For example, one common area of neglect for small businesses is the lack of specific measures to assess your business performance. Small business owners can fall into the trap of just focusing on cash flow and acquiring new clients and neglect the larger area of defining the key metrics that define success for the business. Defining the appropriate key metrics and key performance indicators for your business in critical areas such as sales, marketing, finance, etc. will help you gauge how ready your business is for change.
You’ll also want to look at your existing processes, employees, and suppliers and assess whether they are ready for the change you need to make.
Finally, don’t forget to assess your own business culture to see if it is compatible with where you want to take your business. For example, do you need less structure or more structure? Do you need different technology?
3. How ready are my employees for this organizational change?
For the Senior Leader and the Business Owner: Employees are the critical group for the successful implementation of any change effort. When employees are not ready for change and are forced to do so by management, they will find a way to resist.
Employee resistance can be indifference (loss of interest in their work), passive (doing only what they are told to do), and active (sabotaging the effort with deliberate errors or by slowing down).
Senior leaders and business owners do well when they take steps to minimize employee resistance before the launch of a change effort.
Some of the information you will need to know to determine how ready your employees are for change are the following:
- Do your employees understand your customers’ needs?
- What is the state of employee morale in the organization?
- Do your employees feel personally responsible for their success in the organization?
The advantage for you of assessing the readiness of your managers, organization, and your employees prior to launching a change effort is that it gives you a realistic overview of what is truly needed to implement organizational change. You’ll also understand the sustained time and commitment that will be necessary to undertake meaningful organizational change in your company.
The following video provides further information on how to do a change readiness assessment: