Organizations execute projects and fail to assess whether they have the right conditions, adequate resources and right set of attitudes to support and sustain the change being delivered by the project. Change readiness analyzes and assesses the preparedness of an organization’s conditions, resources and attitudes to support and sustain the change. It is pivotal for an organization to assess its readiness levels before implementing any change.
2. ‘Perceived’ Readiness versus ‘Actual’ Readiness
The term ‘readiness’ can be highly subjective depending on the lens you are using to analyze it. For example, if you view ‘change readiness’ from the perspective of the project team of sponsors, the perceived ‘readiness’ will be different when viewed from the perspective of the end users. Hence, a holistic assessment that is backed by tangible data is imperative in determining the ‘actual’ change readiness of an organization.
Let us understand this example with a scenario. A public utilities company took a strategic decision of implementing an ERP system across all its locations in North America to reduce costs and increase its operational efficiency. A ‘change readiness assessment’ was carried out as a part of portfolio management. This assessment analyzed the physical resources (such as finance) and technology/support resources (such as infrastructure and required technological skills). The result of the assessment indicated that the organization was ‘ready’ to implement and adopt the change. This implementation would take two years to complete and the final rollout would be preceded by a pilot rollout in four locations.
During the pilot rollout, the company received a huge setback as user adoption levels were much lower than anticipated, employee morale had dropped drastically and most importantly the anticipated increase in operational efficiency was nowhere close to the desired target. In addition, the managers and project team reported lack of cooperation and commitment from the impacted staff.
What went wrong over here? The company had done a ‘change readiness’ assessment and that organization was ready to embrace and adapt the change, then why were the desired results not achieved?
The answer is that the ‘change readiness’ assessment missed out on two crucial components of change readiness in any organization – people and culture. Therefore, there was a huge gap between the ‘perceived’ change readiness and the ‘actual’ change readiness. The change readiness from the perspective of the various stakeholders was never taken into account. Even though the company had the required financial resources, infrastructure and required skills, the ‘people’ were not ready for adopting this change.
Being a public utilities company, the majority of the staff had been working with the company for over 15 years and was in the age group of 40-60 years. This was a huge change for them – the company was going from paper-based processes to ERP and most of the impacted staff were not comfortable with technology given their age groups. The project team had not taken any steps to mitigate this risk and this explained the low user adoption levels.
Also, this ‘change’ had been implemented as a top-down strategy with little communication about the reason and need for change. Most of the employees, who had been with the company for over 15 years, had an emotional value attached to the company and felt that they were not a part of the ‘process’ and hence didn’t relate to it. This explained the lack of commitment and resistance.
The pilot, therefore, could not attain the desired level of operational efficiency. The company had to invest resources and additional finances to re-evaluate the company’s change readiness and take necessary steps to manage resistance, and increase user adoption levels.
In this scenario, there was a huge gap between the ‘perceived’ change readiness and the ‘actual’ change readiness. This is a common problem that is faced by many organizations that go through change. When an organization implements a change initiative without conducting a thorough change readiness assessment, it risks failing to sustain the change due to lack of readiness and also risks failing to deliver the intended organizational benefits. In addition, without a change readiness assessment, an organization cannot identify and address potential obstacles and sources of resistance on a timely basis.
Therefore, a holistic ‘change readiness’ model is imperative for any kind of change transformation.
In a future article, we will discuss the Change Readiness model that Conceptia uses on its engagements.