ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE READINESS ASSESSMENTS
What is a Change Readiness Assessment?
An organizational change readiness assessment is a process and a set of tasks that are completed to identify how prepared a group or an organization is for a particular change or for a series of business transformation changes.
The level of readiness analysis that is performed will be based on the scale of the change itself. A large change with severe impacts will involve a more comprehensive business change readiness assessment than a change with minor impacts.
Why is Change Readiness Assessment Really Important? What’s the Value?
Every organization, department, division, or group has its own unique characteristics that make project, program and change management implementation either easy or challenging. These organizational attributes are important to understand so that you can effectively prepare the organization for the transformation, understand training needs, and identify potential obstacles.
In addition, the findings from your business transformation change readiness assessment will allow you to understand how much change management efforts (for example, communications, engagement, and coaching) will be needed to transition each organization. The stage of “readiness to change” that a group is in will determine how well the group embraces the change.
A group that is already resistant to a change or a group that feels overwhelmed with too much change will require a lot more change management than a group that is very receptive to change.
Image source: Pixabay (link at bottom of this page)
As generally recommended by project and change management institutions, including APMG International, PMI, and Prosci, a thorough organizational readiness assessment will involve reviewing a wide range of each organization’s (department, group, etc.) attributes, including:
- Culture and value system
- Capacity for change (how much change is already taking place or has just taken place)
- Group manager styles
- Future state knowledge, skill set, and proficiency
- Positive or negative effects of previous projects or changes
- Awareness and willingness to support the change
- Future state knowledge, skill set, and proficiency
- Each group’s readiness for the transition (how much effort will be needed to update job aids, procedures, policies, etc.)
In some situations, sending out a survey to assess a group’s readiness to change will be sufficient in understanding how ready that organization is for the change. More details on surveys below. In other cases, you will need to conduct detailed readiness assessment workshops (details below).
It is helpful to conduct a thorough business readiness assessment during the early stages of the project, and then conduct periodic checkpoints throughout the life of the project to assess progress, and identify potential issues
Assessment Criteria – What are the Readiness to Change Factors You Should Analyze?
This section provides you with an overview of each of the change readiness criteria listed above. You can read through this section to educate yourself further on the variables you need to assess when conducting your analysis, or you can go directly to the Step-By-Step Process for Conducting a Readiness Assessment section below.
Assess Each Group’s Culture System
A group’s culture comprises the values, behaviors and cumulative traits of the group. Some groups work together in a collaborate team-based manner, with employee participation on all levels, and they often cite collaboration as a key part of how they function. Such a group is known as having a collaborative culture. That’s their identity.
Other groups have a winner-takes-all culture and value, where collaboration is the exception, and individualism is the norm. Such a group is known to have a cut-throat culture.
Types of Group Culture
Factors that contribute to a group’s culture and value system include the group’s vision, norms, assumptions, beliefs, and leadership habits.
By considering culture and value when conducting your organizational readiness assessment, you can better predict how a group will act to the transformation, and plan accordingly to deal with such reactions.
Assess Each Group’s Capacity for Change
At any point in time, a group might be undergoing a lot of change, not much change or in a state of having “no change at all”.
The state that a group is in will impact that group’s receptiveness or resistance to the “additional” change that your program is implementing. As such, when conducting your group and individual change readiness assessment, you need to assess each group’s capacity for “one more change.”
Assess Group Managers’ Styles & Ingrained Organizational Culture
The leadership style observed within a group will play a key role in the group’s readiness to change, including how that group rallies around the change.
If the group has key managers that are more vocal than others, and have concentrated power, then engaging all managers, but focusing on these key managers and getting their buy-in will increase the probability that the whole group will end up supporting the change.
If on the other hand, power is more evenly distributed across the group, then you’ll want to adjust your engagement plans accordingly.
Assess Positive or Negative Effects of Previous Projects or Changes
Effects of previous transformations, projects, and changes will also have an impact on a group’s readiness for business change. A group that has a prior negative experience with changes will be less receptive to this new change, and a group with a positive change history will be more receptive to the change.
As part of your organizational readiness assessment, make sure to assess the effects of previous changes. For those groups that are less receptive to the change, you will need to utilize more change management engagement to get them on board. E.g. frequent meetings with the group to educate them on the benefits of the change as well as what’s in it for them (WIIFM).
Assess Each Group’s Awareness and Willingness to Support the Change
Over the last decades, ongoing change management studies have shown that a lack of awareness is the number one reason why end-users including employees, managers, leaders, and external users resist a change.
Having awareness, and an understanding of the driving factors behind a change (for example: why now, what are the risks of not changing, what are the benefits, and “how am I impacted by the change?”) helps to increase the willingness of impacted and potentially impacted end-user to support the change, which subsequently helps to reduce resistance.
As such, a key component that you need to assess when conducting your organizational readiness assessment is the level of end-user awareness of the program/initiative/project and their willingness to support the change (stakeholder & end-user “buy-in”). Part of this process will involve assessing how ready and willing the managers within the groups are for the change.
Analyze Future Knowledge, Skill Set, and Proficiency Requirements
For an end-user to successfully transition from their current state to the target state (also known as the “To-Be” and the “Future” state), they need to have the necessary knowledge and skills. The current state is how a person performs his or her job today using the existing systems, tools, processes, and procedures.
With a transformational change, one or more of these components (job role, system, tool, process, and procedure) will be changing. The company might be moving to a new system, new tools, changing its operational business process, expanding to new locations or new products, transforming its existing job procedures, etc.
The people that will be impacted by this change, and who need to change how they do some or all of their daily job functions will need to be educated, trained with the right skill set, and given the opportunity to practice their new knowledge to develop proficiency.
To increase how ready each organization is for the transition, you need to also assess the current versus the future state knowledge and proficiency. This is known as the knowledge and proficiency gap. The wider the gap, the more training, education, and end-user practicing needs to be.
Analyze Documentation Gaps
The level of effort needed to update a group’s documents (job aids, procedures, policies, process flows, and other operational documentation), as well as the level of training needed to educate a group’s employees on the updated and new documents will factor into each group’s readiness for the change.
If a group has an extensive number of documents that need to be updated or created from scratch, then from a documentation perspective, that group’s organizational readiness score will be lower than another group that does not have as many documents that need updating.
As such, as part of your organizational readiness assessment, you should spend some time identifying the number of existing documents that need to be updated or created from scratch, and this needs to be done for each impacted end-user group.
Enter your findings into Documentation Matrix Database, and use that matrix to track the documentation update process. You can create the Matrix by yourself from scratch, or you view and obtain a Documentation Matrix Template from AGS.
Step-by-Step Process & Strategies for Conducting Organizational Change Readiness Assessment
A lack of awareness about a change and a lack of desire to support a change are the top two factors why people resist a change, and why changes fail to achieve their objectives.
As such, the first step in the readiness assessment process will be to gauge leadership, manager, and employees’ awareness of the change, and their willingness to support the business change. Depending on the scope of your initiative, that audience will also include customers and 3rd parties.
Assess Awareness and Stakeholder Buy-In
1. Send out survey questionnaires to impacted internal users (employees and managers), external users, or to your targeted audience to assess awareness and willingness to support the change.
- You can use the Prosci ADKAR Tool to send out surveys. Have end-users answer a set of ADKAR questions (Awareness, Desire to Support the Change, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement). For example: “On a scale of 1-5, how aware are you of the factors driving this change?” Prosci has a free trial you can start with, and then you can decide if you want to subscribe.
- Also use the tool to conduct periodic pulse checks throughout the project lifecycle to assess readiness, issues, and potential change resistance.
- For periodic pulse checks, select questions based on current project phase (i.e. during early project phases ask questions related to Awareness and Desire).
- As an alternative to the Prosci ADKAR Tool, you can use other survey tools to conduct your survey. Alternative tools include:
2. Conduct 1-on-1 meetings or group meetings with managers and employees. As part of your meetings, you can directly ask people how aware they are of the change, how willing they are to support the change, how much knowledge they have of the future state, etc. As an alternative, or in addition, you can email them the questionnaires, and have them send you their responses.
3. Interview your project/program leads, program managers, key managers, stakeholders, change agents, SMEs, and other identified resources who can provide insights into an organization/group’s culture and readiness for change.
4. Document your findings using a structured tool (template, spreadsheet or database). Preferably, the tool you use should also come with a dashboard with tracking and measurement analytics. You can create these readiness assessment templates, matrix, and databases from scratch. In addition, you can review and obtain Airiodion Global Services’ Change Readiness Assessment & Management Tool.
5. Next, you should analyze your data, as well as the feedback you are gathering. Assess this information for trends, change readiness progression, and pockets of resistance.
6. Use your readiness assessment findings to develop your change management strategy. In a situation where a lot of the impacted groups are not ready for the change, your change strategy (including your communications, engagement, resistance management, coaching, and training) will need to be very comprehensive.
Conduct Readiness Review Workshops and Roadshows
The best ways to engage with people, and get the answers you need is via in-person or virtual workshops. This allows you to efficiently engage with end-users across different geographical locations, and across the organization to assess their readiness for change.
Each workshop/meeting should be broken into different sessions (each session can be 30 mins to 2 hours in duration). The sessions should include the below:
- Change Impacts Review
- Org Readiness & Documentation Gap Review
- Leadership & Employee Readiness Criteria
Change Impacts Review Workshop Session:
As part of the Change Impacts Review session, you should conduct a “Walk-the-Flow” or “Walk-the-Wall” review, where you or a subject matter expert provides an overview of the change, or of future state process flows. Most importantly, provide stakeholders and impacted end-users with an overview of the impacts and the change delta (the difference between the current state and the future state process flows).
The session to review the process flows can also include an overview of:
- The scope and magnitude of the change
- Impacted roles
- Impacted locations
- Type of change (process, system, policy, data, and org structure)
- Impacted groups
- Timing of impacts
Session to Identify Org Readiness & Documents’ Gaps:
Another session should be spent on asking questions to identify skill set, knowledge and documentation gaps:
- Understand current skill sets and knowledge
- Understand each group’s documentation gaps (i.e. job aides and business procedures, policies, process guidance)
- As part of this section, you should discuss and get a list of existing documents that need to be updated, as well as getting an understanding of which new documents (procedures, job aids, policies, etc.) need to be created from scratch. Use a Documents’ Matrix to capture the input. You can create the Matrix template by yourself from scratch, or you view and obtain a Documentation Matrix Template from AGS.
- Discuss each group’s preferences for training, communications, and other change management delivery.
Session to Assess Leader & Employee Readiness Criteria:
Another session should involve discussing and assessing each group’s
- Culture and value system
- Capacity for change
- Group manager(s) styles
- Positive or negative effects of previous projects or changes
You should develop a list of agenda discussion topics that will help drive these end-user sessions. As an alternative, you can view AGS’s Org. Readiness Assessment Tool, which includes a step-by-step template for conducting your readiness assessment sessions, as well as a 360-degree advance dashboard which provides you with a holistic view of your organizational readiness output.
Organizational Readiness Assessment Tool, Samples, Template, and Dashboard
Sample ADKAR Questionnaire & Survey Worksheet
Image source(s): https://pixabay.com/illustrations/refugees-economic-migrants-1020274/, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/refugees-economic-migrants-1020164/, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/burnout-depression-depressed-lonely-90345/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-touching-blue-sticky-note-1532191/, https://pixabay.com/photos/time-for-a-change-new-ways-letters-3842467/, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/laptop-notebook-man-businessman-1071781/
Author: Ogbe Airiodion | Senior Change Management Lead. I am always excited to connect with fellow change management practitioners and program/project management leads. My goal for this website is to grow it into the industry standard for best project and change management practices, tools, and templates. Ask me questions: Message Ogbe Airiodion or connect with me: Ogbe Airiodion - LinkedIn. Content on Airiodion Global Services (AGS) website is copyrighted. Please review Airiodion Global Services' Terms. Contact Airiodion Global Services today.
Author: Ogbe Airiodion | Senior Change Management Lead.
I am always excited to connect with fellow change management practitioners and program/project management leads. My goal for this website is to grow it into the industry standard for best project and change management practices, tools, and templates. Ask me questions: Message Ogbe Airiodion or connect with me: Ogbe Airiodion - LinkedIn.
Content on Airiodion Global Services (AGS) website is copyrighted. Please review Airiodion Global Services' Terms. Contact Airiodion Global Services today.