By Gale Mote / Guest Column

Organizations that survive and thrive have developed the ability to successfully anticipate, initiate and sustain change that results in positive outcomes.

Some companies are much better at leading change than others. Some believe it is culture-based, others contribute success to those in change leadership roles.

Changes can be around organizational structure, systems and procedures, centralization vs. decentralization, growth strategies, cultural transformation and more. Some are incremental improvements and others result in radical change.

Regardless, it is important to assess an organization’s readiness for change. While the outcome may not stop the change, it will most certainly help those leading the change know better how and where to begin the planning process.

Organizations need to reflect on past change initiatives – what worked, what didn’t work and lessons learned. What were the results? What might we have done differently to alter the outcome? How can we apply these lessons to future change efforts?

The purpose of an organizational readiness assessment is to look at the various dimensions associated with change and assess current levels of concern moving forward.

Areas to address include people (level of management support, availability of skilled change agents and the effect change will have on the workforce), resources (time, money, access to the workforce, training, structural flexibility) and overall considerations (size of the change, change history, number of changes already in play, current stress levels, supportive culture and external impact.)

For example, an organization may be considering migrating to a new Enterprise Resource Planning System. The size of the change is significant, however the company has a history of successfully implementing change and has skilled change leaders in place. Senior leadership is committed, however there is a lack of support among mid-level managers. Budget has been allocated. There is another transformational change in place to move the culture to a high-performance team-based work culture.

An organizational readiness assessment would say to proceed with caution, taking all the necessary steps to ensure success. Common change management steps include aligning leadership, building commitment, designing the implementation plan, conducting a risk assessment, clarifying roles, embracing and proactively managing resistance, celebrating small wins and evaluating the process.

Inherent in all of this, leadership must fundamentally understand what needs to happen before, during and after the change to realize the vision and give credence to the case for change.

Consider the following if you are in a change leadership position. In preparing for change, ask these questions: Why do we need to change? What is our vision – what will the future state be? What is changing and what remains the same? Where are we most likely to stumble? What are critical success factors? It is important to take a holistic, systems approach because change often has far reaching effects throughout the organization.

Critical success factors may include commitment of sponsors, education and training, alignment of measurement and reward systems with the desired state, effective two-way communication, committed, visible leadership and understanding the need for change.

In beginning of the change, leaders must consider these questions: What is the plan? What is our strategy? How do we help those who will be most impacted by the change? What roles are necessary to implement the actions needed?

When the changes are in place, leaders must ensure the team is working to make the change stick and consider what might cause them to revert back to the old way. Most important is to keep an eye on the vision and remember why they are changing in the first place.

It is important to remember some of the fundamental rules essential to successful change efforts. For example, there is no such thing as too much communication when leading and managing change. Creating a culture where mistakes are encouraged and celebrated helps everyone to stretch out of their comfort zones and move in the direction of the new future state.

Ownership = involvement = commitment. Most people don’t appreciate change that is forced. Providing those who will be most impacted with an input or recommendation role is critical.

Lastly, hold one another accountable. Engage in meaningful conversations around behaviors that are helpful and distracting. Celebrate what you want to see more of happen.

Gale Mote is a trainer, organizational development catalyst and coach in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at galemote@galemoteassociates.com.