Change at an organizational level typically brings along some level of performance disruption. Whether there is a process change that requires developing new routines for your front line employees, or a learning curve associated with a new customer relationship management system for your sales team, there is usually a temporary drop in performance compared to the status quo. This temporary disruption can be minimal, or it can derail an initiative before it has a chance to show a benefit.
I recently worked with a client who announced a major reorganization without first assessing whether the employees were truly ready for the change. All levels of the organization were understandably nervous – and the highest performing employees were the first to leave the organization, creating a significant risk for enabling the reorganization to be successful, as well as losing much of the intellectual insights and knowledge key to the organization. Preparing your organization before moving forward on any large program which represents a change from the status quo can be the difference between a lengthy business disruption and one that is a minor pause. So how can you know if your organization is ready for a big change?
Some key indicators that your organization is ready for change include:
- The change has been fully defined and assigned a level of priority
- The organization understands the need to change at every level of employee
- Leaders are visibly committed to the change
- You have the tools and infrastructure to deliver necessary training
A change readiness assessment can open your eyes to any potential issues that could impact the success of a program. During a recent assessment for one of our clients, we engaged with the key stakeholders and uncovered an issue with an antiquated phone system. Understanding and addressing this issue enabled the client to engage with the physician practices in a successful way, yielding the anticipated improvement in patient referral coordination. Without this first step in fixing the infrastructure issue before launching the initiative, employees would have been frustrated and unable to carry out the new program. The gap in understanding would have also reinforced the impression that the leaders were out of touch.
An assessment early in the planning process can help inform the communications plan, and provide a way for impacted stakeholders to feel a sense of inclusion and commitment. It also provides the voice of the employees on the front line and the operations into the initiative. We recommend talking to a broad spectrum of stakeholders from different functional areas, and at different levels, from the front line up to executive leadership as you assess change and stakeholder readiness. For long term projects, it may make sense to repeat the assessment every few months to check in on progress and proactively monitor for potential problems.
As you consider stakeholder readiness for the change, here are some potential questions to ask:
- What have you heard about this initiative/program?
- Is now the right time? Why or why not?
- What level of priority does this initiative have compared to other things on your plate?
- Does senior leadership and your management seem committed to this change?
- What resources do you think we need to make this a success?
- Who else should we talk to?
After reviewing your assessment, determine the appropriate next steps. If the organization is uninformed, should you beef up your communications? If leadership isn’t showing commitment, would one-on-one coaching be enough to turn them around, or do you need to establish incentives for success? Do you have the right resources lined up?
Lastly, be sure to share the anonymous results of your assessment back to the stakeholders who participated to build trust. It will reinforce that you are taking their feedback seriously, which will lead to committed partners as you lead the organization through a successful change.
For more information, contact Lane Newsom at firstname.lastname@example.org.