Change is something that is often resisted or delayed in an organisation until there is no alternative. When change is started, most of the effort is usually spent thinking or designing what the change is to lead to. Preparation therefore is often at a minimum, yet this misses a great opportunity. An organisation that is prepared for change will start from a more solid base, and have a knowledge of and contingency plans to deal with pressure points throughout the organisation.
You can get a measure of an organisation’s readiness for change at any time, and as studies have shown those organisations which understand their starting point have a more successful outcome. Change and culture have been a hot topic in business change fora for a while, and culture in this context can be difficult to get a handle on, but getting an idea of an organisations readiness for change depends on 4 things –
- Senior managers/executives alignment – are their goals common or at least pointing in the same direction- do they agree on what success looks like. Do they understand the current situation of the organisation.
- Alignment of other members of the business – do they understand how they can contribute to the success of the organisation and are willing to do those things.
- Systems and procedures operated in practice as they are documented, and do they have capacity to deal with extra load generated by change.
- Key procedures and systems identified and are metrics and controls in placed to rapidly identify problems.
Each of the above elements is important for different reasons:-
- For change to be successful it is important that all parts of the organisation are pulling in the same direction and as such it is very beneficial to have the heads of the major sections of the business to agree on the major elements for example:-
target market sector
“buy in strategy”
key metricsOne of the most common divergences I find between different executives and managers is target margin, with finance people having a different target to general management and different in turn to those of the sales & marketing functions. Any business that does not agree on what return it should be seeking for its products is not ready for change.
- Equally to be successful other parts of the business have to understand how they contribute. If the business understands this when gauging readiness for change it is likely that the management team communicates effectively, and makes it easy for the rest of the organisation to make things happen.Members of the organisation can often get mislead on this sort of thing for all the right reasons. Members of the business want to please customers because the “customer is king” this can lead to margin creep especially in bespoke product situations.
- If systems and procedures in reality are different to those documented this is a red flag. It tends to mean that the management team does not really know what is going on. In practice this often indicates that there are problems that management has not solved and therefore people have come up with their own work around. Thus the systems is broken and it is impossible to tell how things will behave when change is thrown into the mix.
If people in the organisation are having to work around systems and procedures then it cannot be ready for change since the management and executive does not know what is really going on in the business.
- This is perhaps the most obvious readiness for change area, it is about the extra people in purchasing, the faster computers etc. but in reality if the procedures are not what they were thought to be a lot of effort in this area is useless. Once the real and documented procedures are aligned then effective metrics for the key ones (sales, sales margin, capacity, response times efficiency, client satisfaction etc.) help ensure that difficulties are spotted early.
One of the commonest areas for overload is in costing and quoting. Businesses in markets they understand tend to do few re-quotes, but when entering new market segments there is often a learning curve involving re-costing and re-quoting which results in overload. Metrics can help identify problems quickly before they escalate.
Readiness for change can be measured at any time, and since we don’t always know when change is coming it is worthwhile keeping a handle on it within your organisation.
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