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Are You Really Ready to Make A Change?

Posted: 12/01/2016
John Moran
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It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change. –Leon Megginson[3]

“A new study by Towers Watson has found that only 25% of change management initiatives are successful over the long term. While this may come as no shock – substantive change in organizations with entrenched cultures is always difficult”[4]. Although leadership often knows there is a need for change, frequently it starts with an unclear vision of the change, poor planning, and unclear communications to initiate the change process on the part of the management group. The lack of poor planning, unclear communications, and poor execution causes a lot of fear in the organization about what this change will do to the current status quo, and whether it will be better than the current mediocre reality.

In addition employees usually resist any change efforts no matter how small because of the following five reasons[5]:

  1. Fear of the unknown/surprise.
  2. Mistrust
  3. Loss of job security/control
  4. Bad timing
  5. An individual’s negative predisposition toward change

Through our experience in making successful organizational change we have found the following questions provide a useful guide in helping to think through a change initiative before embarking, while also minimizing the resistance to change. The questions deal with issues and concerns before the change starts (BC), during the change process (DC), and after the change has been made (AC) on all levels that are affected by the change. This is shown in the Change Question Checksheet in figure 1.

Change Vision and Message Questions

  • Do I have a clear vision of the change to be made?
  • Do I have a clear and concise message about the change?
  • Do I have the ability to articulate the change message to all levels of the organization?
  • Do I have sufficient passion for this change to be its champion?
  • Does the message fully and concisely explain the value of the change?
  • Is the message believable to all audiences?
  • Have we made it clear what will change?
  • Do we understand the scale of the change, including potential unintended consequences?
  • Have we established a sense of urgency for the need for this change?

Change Goals:

  • Do we have goal clarity and know exactly what we want to achieve?
  • Are the change goals realistic?
  • Are the goals believable?
  • Can we measure our achievements and progress?
  • Do we have goal alignment to our strategic plan?

Change Plan:

  • Do we have a change plan that sets up a series of quick wins to build momentum or are we trying to hit a home run?
  • Do we understand and have a plan to deal with the technical challenges of the change?
  • Do we have the right systems in place to support the change?
  • Do we understand and have a plan to deal with the adaptive changes people will have to make?
  • Are we clear about the adaptive changes to be made?
  • Are we always discussing the conceptual side of the change and not the details of how we will do it? Remember the devil is in the details

Management:

  • Is the management team on board and ready to support the change?
  • Will the management team roll-up-their sleeves and get fully involv
  • Will senior management demonstrate a behavior that is fully supportive of the change initiative and walk the talk, not talk the walk?
  • Do the employees trust us?
  • Do we have a way to anchor every change gain we make and not let it slip back to the old status quo?
  • Have we given managers and supervisors the information to really understand the reason for the change and are they able to translate that message to the people that report to them?
  • Are we listening to people’s concerns and reacting to them rather than dismissing them or failing to “hear” them?

People and Change Teams:

  • Do people understand how the change will impact them?
  • Do people understand what they will gain and lose in this change?
  • Do we have the right talent to make the change?
  • Do we have training available to assist in the change?
  • Have we given people reasons to buy in and be engaged with the change?
  • What resistance are we encountering?
  • Can we hold people accountable for making or not making the change?
  • Do we need some coaching to help make the change?
  •  Do we have informed, passionate, and engaged change teams in place?

Barrier Removal:

  • Have we cleared the underbrush and removed the weeds that derail change?
  • Have we eliminated mid-management doubt and resistance and do we have their commitment to the change initiative?
  • Have we addressed people’s fears in tangible ways?

 

                                                      Change Question Checksheet

                                                                  When To Ask                                 Readiness

Change Ready Question

Before Change

During

Chang

After Change

Yes

Maybe

No

NA

1. Change Vision and Message Questions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do I have a clear vision of the change to be made?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Do I have a clear and concise message about the change?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Do I have the ability to articulate the change message to all levels of the organization?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Do I have sufficient passion for this change to be its champion?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Does the message fully and concisely explain the value of the change?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Is the message believable to all audiences?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Have we made it clear what will change?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Do we understand the scale of the change, including potential unintended consequences?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Have we established a sense of urgency for the need for this change?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Change Goals:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do we have goal clarity and know exactly what we want to achieve?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are the change goals realistic?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are the goals believable?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can we measure our achievements and progress?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do we have goal alignment to our strategic plan?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Change Plan:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do we have a change plan that sets up a series of quick wins to build momentum or are we trying to hit a home run?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do we understand and have a plan to deal with the technical challenges of the change?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do we have the right systems in place to support the change?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do we understand and have a plan to deal with the adaptive changes people will have to make?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are we clear about the adaptive changes to be made?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are we always discussing the conceptual side of the change and not the details of how we will do it? Remember the devil is in the details

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Management:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is the management team on board and ready to support the change?

Are we listening to people’s concerns and reacting to them rather than dismissing them or failing to “hear” them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will the management team roll-up-their sleeves and get fully involved?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will senior management demonstrate a behavior that is fully supportive of the change initiative and walk the talk, not talk the walk?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do the employees trust us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do we have a way to anchor every change gain we make and not let it slip back to the old status quo?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have we given managers and supervisors the information to really understand the reason for the change and are they able to translate that message to the people that report to them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are we listening to people’s concerns and reacting to them rather than dismissing them or failing to “hear” them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    5. People and Change Teams:

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     Do people understand how the change will impact them?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Do people understand what they will gain and lose in this change?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Do we have the right talent to make the change?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Do we have training available to assist in the change?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Have we given people reasons to buy in and be engaged with the change?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    What resistance are we encountering?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Can we hold people accountable for making or not making the change?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Do we need some coaching to help make the change?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Do we have informed, passionate, and engaged change teams in place?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    6. Barrier Removal:

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Have we cleared the underbrush and removed the weeds that derail change?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Have we eliminated mid-management doubt and resistance and do we have their commitment to the change initiative?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Have we addressed people’s fears in tangible ways?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Your Other Questions:

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Figure 1

    Summary:

    Successful change comes from developing an organizational atmosphere that is creative, risk taking, enthusiastic, reflective, involved, and inspires people to change. To achieve this elusive set of critical ingredients the organization must go for the quick wins and create a positive change momentum that contributes to a successful change process. Building and sustaining a conducive change environment cannot be achieved without careful planning before, during, and after the change initiative. It requires the change leaders to be constantly questioning how things are going, if support is waning, whether people are continually engaged, and determine if we are making clear mid-course adjustments based on what we are hearing, seeing, and sensing that will help accelerate the change initiative.

    Many questions were listed but one you should ask at the end of a successful change is –“When will be ready for more change?” Change never stops or takes a holiday we constantly have to change to survive. Edward Deming said “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.[6]

    Do not fall into the trap that French journalist Jean-Baptise Alphonse Karr wrote in 1849 "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." Or "The more things change, the more they stay the same.” [7] You want a sustained and lasting change in your organization that improves its overall performance and response to customer needs. The change needs to look and feel different after the change initiative is completed. A return to the old status quo is not acceptable. Be part of the 25% of change management initiatives that are successful over the long term.


    About the authors:

    John W. Moran, Ph.D. is a Senior Quality Advisor to the Public Health Foundation.  Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health in the Division of Health Policy and Management 2011-2015. A former member of PHAB’s Evaluation and Quality Improvement Committee 2013 – 2015. Adjunct Professor Arizona State University College of Health Solutions' School for the Science of Health 2013 – present. President of the Board Healthy Maine Partnership - of Choose To Be Health in York County, Maine 2011 –2016.

    Leslie M. Beitsch, MD, JD is on the faculty at the Florida State University College of Medicine as Professor of Health Policy and Director of the Center for Medicine and Public Health. He is currently Chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Social Medicine.

    Thank you, for your interest in Are You Really Ready to Make A Change?.