4 Blind Spots & 5 Guidelines to Assess Organizational Change Capability

4 Blind Spots & 5 Guidelines to Assess Organizational Change Capability
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Assess Organizational Change Capability

Change does not begin with a blank slate in any organization. The history of an organization, it’s previous experience with change, its workplace culture, and corporate values will determine how it goes about changing. The task of how to assess organizational change capability involves exploring the organization’s current capacity for change.

An organizational change capability assessment process provides a focused inquiry into the many dimensions of an organization and its people. The output should be a clear picture and shared understanding of the current situation, employees’ concerns, resistances, and opportunities to leverage change throughout the organization.

The change assessment process helps the organization to be proactive about their change planning by anticipating difficulties, preparing for and obstacles, and practicing preventative interventions.

A systemic change assessment process often uncovers information about an organization that it does not know because the common ways that an organization resists or responds to change are not always obvious to the people — especially the leaders — in the organization.

4 Common Organizational Blind Spots to Uncover and Understand
Based upon data from our change management simulation combined with 30+ years on the front lines of change, these common organizational change blind spots can get in the way of establishing an effective change initiative.

Change leaders must get to know the organization deeply and thoroughly in order to begin the process of working in partnership with the people in the organization to facilitate effective change.

  • Miscalculating the Disruption
    Often, the people who are in charge of change have an overly rosy view of how easy change will be and may not be fully aware of the internal difficulties they have to overcome.

    Some leaders are impatient to get on with important changes, and they can be out of touch with the current state of affairs and the associated difficulties that change presents to the people most affected by the change.

    The cost of this denial will be difficulties in implementing a change and unexpected reactions by the organization to the desired new ways.

  • Having an Unrealistic Assessment of Current Capabilities
    Leaders often make unrealistic assessments of the current corporate culture and/or employee morale and the ability to change self-sustaining patterns of behaving, thinking, feeling, and working.

    Some leaders don’t want to hear about difficulties, or they don’t understand the reasons that people would feel differently about something so urgent and important.

    Successful change leaders conduct a thorough current state analysis to ensure clear, unbiased, and unfiltered information to make realistic plans for change.

  • Blaming Resistance on Individuals
    Resistance to change often arises from specific elements of the culture, from specialized functional groups, and from the effects of previous (often poor) attempts to change.

    Resistance to change is natural and inevitable in an organization.  It is typically not due to a lack of employee motivation, but represents the reasonable responses of employees during uncertainty.

    Change resistance and its sources must be uncovered, understood, and responded to, or they can ruin well planned change initiatives.

  • Underestimating the Affect of Past Change Failures
    Skepticism (fair or not) from previous change initiatives and incomplete change efforts can make employees unwilling to fully commit to new changes.

    Unless organizations make a major effort to resolve them, past mistakes and resistance to change will likely be repeated.

    People need to be prepared for a different type of change initiative if you want the change to be successful.

5 Guidelines to Assess Organizational Change Capability
Follow these guidelines to develop information that the organization trusts and to build a collaborative problem-solving relationship with those most affected by change.

  1. Organizations Need to Know Where They Are in Order to Decide What They Have to Change
    An organizational change capability assessment is a way to deeply understand the current state in terms of the organization’s temperature, it’s capability, and it’s orientation toward achieving success at change along with the potential pitfalls, and challenges that it faces along the way.

    The change assessment processes should be conducted early in the change process so the organization and the people who lead the change can anticipate and respond to actual and potential obstacles to effective and sustainable change.

    Change assessments should be repeated at regular intervals to look objectively at progress in areas that need continuing attention and to help the organization become aware of it’s sometimes not obvious, even hidden, expectations, attitudes, and expectations related to change.

  2. Cultural Barriers to Change Should be Identified and Addressed Early
    The earlier cultural barriers are uncovered and addressed, the more chance there is of being able to move change obstacles or to wisely design around them.

    The up-front cost of anticipating a difficulty is always less than dealing with it later on.  When it comes to organizational change, our change management consulting experience is that it is easier to be proactive than to exercise damage control later.

  3. Information About the Organization Must be Gathered from Many Sources
    Leaders cannot start real change at work without a realistic and objective picture of the internal climate of the organization. Most organizational change assessments utilize three different sources of information: interviews, focus groups, and surveys.

    Each data source offers an important, but incomplete, perspective on the organization’s readiness for a major change initiative.  Together the three methods provide a comprehensive picture of the readiness of the organization to change, and the challenges and difficulties it will face in achieving  the desired results of change.

  4. Encourage Upward Pressure for Change by Making the Top Leadership Aware of What People Below Truly Think, Feel, Do, and Want to Do
    To affect lasting organizational change, the pressure from upward information can be critical. Leaders may need help, in the form of a push and some information from lower the organization, before they can do what is needed to create real and lasting change.

    The people below the leadership team often know more about what is needed, the real problems, and the potential solutions, than their bosses.

  5. Plans Need to Be Made to Overcome Resistance
    Organizational change readiness information is also required to make practical plans to overcome resistance based upon a realistic picture of the internal sources of resistance, why they exist, and how to take them seriously.

The Bottom Line
As an organization plans a major change, the key element in long-term success is the ability of the workforce to change quickly and accurately amid many uncertainties.  Getting people to understand, become actively involved with, and committed to change is the key task of change leaders.  Have you properly assessed your organization’s capability to change?

To learn more about how to create and sustain organizational change, download How to Mobilize, Design and Transform Your Change Initiative

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