The Importance of Change Readiness
Embarking on an organisational change journey without assessing change readiness is akin to doing a mountain expedition without equipment or a map. A pretty ineffective strategy overall and doomed for failure. Many change initiatives fail because there is too much emphasis on systems and processes and not enough focus on people, who in effect are the main drivers of change.
Yes, we need effective systems and processes, but we also need to remember that one of the core ingredients for any change programme is people; without the hearts, minds and souls, change initiatives will struggle to thrive. Understanding, therefore, the readiness for change of the people who will be responsible for making ‘change’ happen is imperative.
Challenges of Implementing Change
Some of the challenges that organisations face when implementing change initiatives include:
- Ineffective communication – the rationale for change is unclear and relevant information is not provided in a timely fashion.
- Lack of vision – there is no clear vision, or clarity about the purpose of change and desired outcomes.
- Resistance – the workforce charged with implementing change are resistant and unclear of the benefits.
- Change fatigue – people will experience change fatigue when change happens too frequently and when it is poorly executed.
- Lack of buy-in – buy-in is required at senior level to bring legitimacy and credibility but this is also needed at the bottom from those who will be implementing change at grass roots..
- Lack of governance – there needs to be detailed systems and processes in place to manage change and transition for smooth execution.
In this article we will explore what change readiness is and why this is essential for successful change. We will examine some of the key elements required to assess change readiness, consider best practice and present some strategies for improving change readiness.
In particular, we will focus on the human dimensions of change readiness, specifically, the role mindset plays when implementing change.
Understanding Change Readiness
Defining Change Readiness
Change readiness is the capacity of an organisation to successfully implement change initiatives, through its resources, people and culture.
Change readiness entails having the right systems and processes in place for change and transformation to take place, which includes making sure that the workforce have the right mindset to enable change.
Some of the factors that contribute to successful change are:
- Understanding the need for change and likely impact. What are the key drivers and barriers faced?
- Creating awareness and a shared understanding about the importance of change and consequences if change is not implemented.
- Finding change ambassadors who will influence and lead on change
- Developing a clear vision and strategy to get buy-in and commitment to the change and having a clear plan for implementation
- Having clear channels of communication, with transparency to address concerns and provide reassurance
- Capacity building – ensure that any gaps in resources and capacity are identified and addressed for successful implementation of change
- Establishing the right environment and culture that supports and empowers people to implement change with access to the right training and resources
- Identifying and addressing any resistance to change, making sure people understand the benefits of change personally
- Monitoring progress of change to keep things on track
It cannot be under-estimated the role that people play in implementing successful change. Change leaders and ambassadors are essential not only to secure the initial buy-in, but to ensure successful follow through happens. Inevitably, the journey of change is peppered with highs and lows. Having an organisational culture which recognises the functional and psychological components of change is important.
From a functional standpoint this involves having the right systems and processes in place, including governance etc. From a psychological standpoint, this relates more to culture and mindset. Organisations need to acknowledge that people are individuals, and their responses to change will vary.
Managing this effectively requires the right strategy and set of values and competencies including empathy and tolerance. Invariably, responses to change move through a change cycle which includes precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action to maintenance. The journey is not always linear. Some people are likely to be energised by change whilst others will experience fear and anxiety. A culture which embraces this and promotes healthy discussion is likely to be more successful.
Benefits of Assessing Change Readiness
As a consequence, therefore, there are many benefits to assessing the organisation’s readiness for change, in particular, the mindset of the workforce.
Assessments provide valuable data about areas which are likely to help drive change initiatives and the potential areas of interference. As such, they save time and resources and remove the guesswork. Accurate assessments increase the chances of success by enabling the organisation to hone in on the areas which will have the most impact.
Key Elements of Assessing Readiness for Change
Leadership and Change Management
Leaders are instrumental in the change journey and without their commitment change initiatives are less likely to succeed. Leaders bring legitimacy and credibility to a change programme. They are instrumental in creating the right strategies for change which involves the roadmap and then crucially, getting commitment to this plan from the workforce.
Once a clear strategy is developed it is important to consult widely so that people feel engaged and involved at each stage of the process. This increases the chances of getting buy-in and should underpin any change initiative.
A change-ready culture means that the workforce are confident, open and motivated to drive the change. They understand the need for change and believe things will improve as a consequence. People are not always going to agree with every aspect of change, but if consulted and engaged properly, any resistance to change will be managed more effectively.
Organisational Culture and Readiness
The change process begins with assessing the current organisational culture and aligning this with the change objectives, whilst also building strategies which foster an ongoing culture of ‘readiness’. This is an ongoing process rather than an end goal. However, once the groundwork and foundations have been successfully laid, the journey is likely to be a smoother transition into change.
It is crucial within any change process to identify who the key stakeholders are and consider who will be responsible for leading the change. It is important that they are sufficiently involved and bought-in to the process from the onset to avoid derailment further down the line.
Communication and Engagement
A significant part of the change process therefore, is to communicate and engage people properly. This means engaging people in discussions about change from the beginning. Providing people with timely information that is relevant and clear is crucial, specifically about how change will impact them and the organisation. There must be efficient methods for anticipating and handling resistance where people don’t feel isolated or disadvantaged and where concerns can be openly expressed and discussed.
Explaining the rationale for change and helping people connect personally with the benefits is a crucial element for any successful change to occur. People may not always agree with change, but if they understand the rationale and feel consulted, this will increase the chances for success.
Skills and Training
Another consideration for change readiness are any training and skills gaps. Identifying these gaps is important so that the necessary support and training can be provided. This needs to be considered and captured in the change strategy and plan.
Change Readiness Assessment Tools
A change readiness assessment tool which has been developed over many years which is scientifically validated that provides an evidence-based approach to assessing change readiness is Engage. At the heart of it, Engage captures mindset and a person’s readiness for change. Extrapolated across an organisation, this will also provide a cultural map of the organisational mindset.
Best Practices for Assessing Change Readiness
Establishing Baseline Readiness
To assess change readiness in practice, it is important to take a baseline measure. Engage enables organisations to establish this baseline measure by capturing things that are relevant to a person’s mindset and beliefs about their capacity to implement change. When we feel confident and resourceful and we are open and motivated there is an increased likelihood that we will be more engaged and ready for change. Engage provides such a measurement.
Continuous Monitoring and Evaluation
Engage also provides a unique opportunity to support ongoing measurements so that organisations can continue to monitor and evaluate progress over time. This enables the organisation to make adjustments and decisions based on data, rather than assumptions and guesswork.
Addressing Resistance and Barriers
Once a baseline measure of change readiness is established, this provides valuable insights into what the drivers and barriers to change are. These data insights are invaluable for designing strategy. For example, if the workforce presents as being less open-minded and less receptive to change, a different approach is needed than if you are facing a measurement which suggests higher levels of openness. Evidence and data in these circumstances is critical to inform next steps.
Improving Change Readiness
Building a Change-Ready Culture
Of course, building a change-ready culture is an ongoing process of improvement which encourages innovation and adaptability. This requires a certain mindset where people show belief and positivity, where they feel resilient and resourceful and have the confidence to take ownership for change.
Leadership Development for Change
Leadership is also crucial for successful change. The leaders of the organisation need to embrace change and be future oriented. Understanding the competencies and skills required to achieve this is important. Leaders of change need to be visionaries, they need to be strategic and they need to understand the human component of change. They need to excite people about change then empower them to deliver it.
Enhancing Communication and Collaboration
When driving a change initiative, good internal communication is essential so that channels of communication encourage open, transparent dialogue where there is a continuous feedback loop about how to develop.
Employee Engagement and Empowerment
Part of this process means involving people in decision making, and providing relevant opportunities for people to provide input, to develop new skills and to voice any concerns. Make people part of the change and change will be easier.
This article has presented what change readiness is in the context of businesses. It has discussed the key elements for assessing readiness for change, in addition to the best practices of assessing it. The article also discussed how to improve change readiness through building a change ready culture, leadership development, enhancing communication and improving employee engagement.
If you’re looking to personally change your mindset, then you may want to check out our mindset training course, developed to help you better understand your mindset and develop a more confident and growth based mindset, all with its basis in being ready for change.
One of the best ways to improve company wide readiness for change is to build a coaching culture company-wide. If you’re interested in building a coaching culture within your business, then you may want to take a look at our coaching training for managers. This training course teaches managers how to take a coaching approach to their managerial style, thus improving their skills to assess and improve change readiness across the whole business!
If you’re an individual wanting to become a coach, or just incorporate coaching practices into your career or life, then also be sure to check out our coaching accreditation course.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the importance of assessing readiness for change?
It is crucial to identify the drivers and barriers to change, this will give valuable insight into where to focus effort and energy. Additionally, identifying key stakeholders, and having a clear vision and strategy is essential. Channels of communication at all levels are imperative, where open dialogue is needed.
How can change readiness assessments benefit organisations?
Organisations which assess change readiness are far more likely to identify the essential components that make change successful. In the absence of data, strategies rely too heavily on systems and processes, ignoring the human dimension of change. At the end of the day, people drive change.
What are the key elements to consider when assessing readiness?
Mindset is a key component of any successful change initiative. In particular, confidence, openness and motivation. In the right combination, these factors will equip people with the right mindset for change.
How can leaders drive change and improve readiness?
Leaders need to embrace change. They need to have a clear purpose, vision and strategy and crucially, they need to acknowledge the human elements of change.
What role does organisational culture play in change readiness?
Having the right organisational culture is essential for successful change to take place. This involves having open dialogue and showing empathy and understanding for different responses to change. Change can be energising and it can cause stress. Having the right culture and environment will help drive the right behaviours.
What communication strategies are effective for change readiness?
Communication during change needs to be open, two way and transparent. The rationale for change and how it impacts people should be clear and people should have the opportunity for input. Involve people early on and make people part of the change for change to thrive.
How can organisations identify skill gaps and provide training?
Carrying out a skills analysis and training gap which is aligned with the change objectives is a good way to identify any skill gaps.
Which assessment tools can be used to evaluate change readiness?
Engage is a tool to assess change readiness. It is empirically validated assessment diagnostic that identifies change readiness and highlights drivers and barriers to change for people.
What are the best practices for assessing readiness?
Best practice for assessing change readiness would be to keep communication transparent, keep people engaged and involved and use validated measurements to provide reliable insights into what will drive or derail change.
How can organisations improve their change readiness?
Organisations can take a more planned approach to assessing change readiness, by using validated methods and assessments. This approach ensures that decisions are robust and strategy is based on evidence, rather than relying on assumptions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jodi is the founder and driving force behind Engage. She is an occupational psychologist and executive coach with a PhD in Coaching Psychology, who for over 20 years has dedicated her career to helping people thrive and be the best version of themselves.
As a leading expert in coaching, she has worked globally with blue chip clients. She combines this wealth of experience and passion for human development with the scientific rigour of evidence-based research which underpins the Engage toolset.