We’ve spoken before about the balance of art and science in change management, and it’s impossible for me to land on one being more important than the other. Intuition and the ability to read people (as individuals and groups) are paramount to success in this work. When I interview people with great process/program management experience but few “soft skills” or an appreciation for how culture plays into change, I generally recommend them for a project manager rather than a change manager role.
That said, a comprehensive change management plan requires rigor and structure if you want to give your initiative the greatest chance of delivering the business benefits it’s meant to have. In a LinkedIn post (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leading-through-change-whats-needed-now-greg-matsunami?trk=mp-reader-card), I wrote about the different phases of change management and now would like to dive a bit deeper into monitoring organizational progress activities of that middle phase. Through surveys (with both quantitative and qualitative elements), you’ll be able to provide executive leaders with tangible benefits that demonstrate the value that change management has had on impacted stakeholders and the adoption of new processes, systems or organizational structure that are being implemented.
Supporting a broad range of process and systems changes that my former company actioned over the past year, I fielded a brief survey three times to help me understand better where our employees were on the journey from awareness to understanding to adoption to ownership. I kept the survey short (ten questions with a 1-5 rating and three open ended questions) to ensure better response and was able to report findings based on business unit, department, location and position in company. (Tenure with company was a dimension I missed.) The objective was not so much to place blame on teams that were moving slower than others but to engage in conversation with their managers to understand the conditions that might be impeding understanding or adoption. By conducting regular surveys, I could not only see rates of progress within departments but areas where “backsliding” had occurred to have a better understanding of sustainment issues as we went through the changes.
My greatest learnings were three-fold:
• Many business leaders like to lead with facts – and quantifiable data can build more effective arguments for action. Additionally, reports with charts/graphs make the value of change management more concrete, as they seem less subjective than mere “coffee conversations.”
• Quantitative surveys helped focus my follow-up conversations because I could see from the results which departments’ issues were of greater magnitude than others and how they were tracking over time. That data led me to immediate action in terms of holding additional “focus groups” with those teams or one-on-one conversations with those leaders. Because the survey itself was purposefully short, I couldn’t get all the answers from the data roll-up. Nonetheless, I had enough information to direct additional inquiries and help employees get unstuck.
• Graphic representation of progress is a very effective way to summarize how an initiative is landing for senior executives. They can see at a glance how the organization is progressing as a whole and where there might be problems.
My final advice to share on this topic: be conscious of the workload of your employees and other survey activities that are going on when you field yours. We know that many of our employees already feel stretched in their day-to-day work. Long surveys that come at the wrong time or “yet another” in a stream of questionnaires can lead to a low response rate. Without a robust sample, your data and the conclusions you draw from them will be limited in value.