In my role as an internal communications specialist supporting companies through change I am aware of the on-going, frequently cyclical nature of organisational change.
As I think back over some of the recent change initiatives I’ve been involved in, I can see that, while the framework for a communication strategy and plan to support change is broadly the same, the investment of time and effort needed for different stages can vary considerably. The main reason for the variance is the organisation’s culture; its predisposition, or otherwise, to adapt and change.
Experience suggests that step 1 of any major change programme would be to carry out a ‘change readiness’ assessment.
Step 1: Lesson 1: Don’t assume you know the answers.
Each programme should be assessed on its own merits as this is an area where (to coin a phrase) “…past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future results”. An organisation that has been supportive of change in the past may show resistance (either active or passive) if:
- employees can’t picture the future state of the business or understand how they, as individuals will fit into the new operating model
- employees don’t buy into the rationale for change or don’t believe the end goal is worth the amount of pain required to get there
- employees don’t understand the when, where and how it will be implemented
- there is a lack of credible, coherent, inspirational leadership.
If you type ‘change readiness assessment’ into a search engine you will find an abundance of tools and questionnaires freely available so you can select or adapt whichever approach seems most pertinent. In broad terms the areas you want to understand in relation to the proposed change are:
- The organisation’s culture and value system
- Barriers to change – structural and cultural
- Leadership styles, power distribution and sponsorship of the change
- The amount of change already taking place and its alignment with the new ‘vision’
- Residual effects of past changes and employee appetite for change
- Middle management’s predisposition toward the change
- The organisation’s change management capability (and credibility)
Despite the obvious benefits of a change readiness assessment and the many years I’ve spent in different organisations supporting change programmes, I admit that I have no first-hand experience of any such activity preceding any of the change programmes I’ve been involved in.
On reflection, this seems a glaring oversight and a ridiculous failure of common-sense.