6 Questions Your Organization Must Ask Before Making a Change

Change is hard. Nobody likes to change. Right? Yada yada yada… Not your problem.

Until one day you find yourself in the position of managing or sponsoring a major change for your company. You’ve been asked to help get everyone ready.

“Great. Sure thing”, you say as you accept the challenge.

“Yikes”, you think to yourself. Panic button.

Where do you start?

Ask yourself the following questions to see if you’re thinking about the right things. What you should look for as you scope out this effort?

  • First, figure out ‘How big is the change to your company?’ Not all changes are created equal of course. The more people that have to change, typically the more effort it will take. So think about the scale of the program.
    • Are you changing most of the processes in a function?
    • Are you making changes to one role or to everyone in a department?
    • Are you upgrading a system feature and everyone is excited about how fast it will run?
    • Are you changing something about your products that all your customers will see?
  • Do people like the change (or not)? Most changes – once people know about them – come with a positive or negative impression, so be aware of what people think about it to start. Is your company happy or apprehensive about the change? It may go without saying, but if you’re lucky enough to have a positive impression from the start, you may have less work to do to get everyone behind the change. However, never take a positive impression for granted. Whims of people undergoing a change have been known to turn in a flash. Be sure to put in place ways to know if the tide has turned.
  • How many people will have to deviate from ‘business as usual’? If most of the folks won’t really notice because it’s a ‘behind the scenes’ change, or you just have a small number of people to work with, breathe easy. If however, a lot of key jobs and responsibilities will change quite a bit (and you need people to change their behavior), or if there is a major organization realignment involved, take notice.
  • What is the risk to your program’s ROI if people don’t change their behaviors? Sometimes you are changing out a computer program or a process.  If you are replacing it, people won’t have a choice. They have to start using the new one because you turned the old one off. However, if your program doesn’t have such a clean break from the past, people may be doing what you ask for a little while. The program that rolls out seems to be going well. But then you notice that old behaviors are popping back up and resistance is taking over. If you need those changes ‘to stick’ to keep the program’s return on investment going, you may be in trouble. Or prepare for the discussion on why your program didn’t continue to acheive its benefits.
  • So, what happens if the change is not implemented completely or backslides? Another way to think about this is, what happens if people don’t want to change what they are doing? If they can choose to not change, and you haven’t clearly shown them why they should want / need to change… Ouch, you really need to focus on putting in place the long-term infrastructure to support the change. Once the excitement wears off, people will back-slide.  Strong cultures are very resiliant – often to the detriment of a change program.
  • Are leaders ready to walk the walk? Do you have good sponsorship from the executives? All too often what sounded like a good approach in the PowerPoint document, fails in execution because the leadership wasn’t really ready to do what it takes to make the change happen. Or they may have trouble getting good ideas and concepts translated into action. Think about how you are going to work with your sponsors so they are effectively demonstating their support.

Hint: If more than a few of these items has got you worried, you’re moving up on the Change Richter scale. Your company will feel the repercussions. Be sure you’ve got plans in place to address them…

Have you been reponsible for planning a major change? What elements of your readiness plan do you think were the most important?

Until next time … wishing you business readiness success!

Kirsten Jordan is a Partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @Kirstenkbdb. Sign up to receive her and her colleagues’ blog at Current.