Friday, June 12, 2015

WHY Is It So Hard to Measure Change

It's probably better and more accessible to measure change-readiness rather than change progress.

Change is the only constant, and Change Management is one of the most important business initiatives for leading organizations forward. However, most companies do not understand the value that change management provides. In most cases many managers do not understand how to qualify or quantify how change management adds to the bottom line. It seems self-evident that there needs to be some way to 'measure' change, whether quantitative or qualitative, anecdotal or empirical. Otherwise, how can the proposed change be justified? If certain 'important' change is immeasurable. But how can you know whether there is a benefit that is worth the cost (in resources or peoples' time and effort)? How can you know if the enterprise is at least headed in the 'right' direction? How can you get people on board? What kind of change do companies want to measure? Why? Or for whom?

The very purpose of introducing any change in an organization is to improve. Improvement comes only when people embrace the change and are actively engaged in whatsoever they are doing. Increased engagement is a direct indicator of the effectiveness of any change. Increased engagement will always lead to higher profitability, morale, mutual trust, and everything else. Organizations consist of people. It is the change in people's behaviors that brings about change in the organization. Leaders must have the desire to change a company. They must define the why and what the change outputs will look like. It's a fair assumption that the value of the change will be realized and delivered by the adoption, utilization and proficient use of their people in their 'new' ways. There are numerous points-of-view and reference points / systems of a huge number of players: CXOs, board members, senior executives, middle managers, professional staff, part-time workers, unionized workforce, they all have a different view on "change"; so if you want to measure "change" you have to consider all those frameworks - or decide for the one you do prefer: and then there is little difficulty in measuring it. Of course, the outcome is limited when you want to derive any consequence, action plan, or even next steps to do it.

Some change is very difficult to quantify and measure. There are two things to take into account: Perhaps the difficulty in measuring change management is that the very thing we are measuring is changing. There is an inherent oxymoron in the term change management. We want people to change, and manage/control at the same time. That's like trying to drive with your foot on the brake and the accelerator at the same time. The other consideration is that the part we are measuring is only a snapshot of the entire organizational picture. Each change effort is so different. Even two simultaneous changes going on in a firm are so varied no cookie cutter metrics or methodologies exist that gives the answer. Employee morale can be measured in terms of retention and by surveying job satisfaction. Improved customer service can be measured as well. Not all elements of change are easily quantifiable, whereas some are in terms of hours, and dollars saved.

It's probably better and more accessible to measure change-readiness rather than change progress. The change must be defined in its base elements and associated benefits to be achieved. (financial, market share, productivity.) The deliverable's success value is then tied to the success of the elements dependent upon the amount of adoption, utilization, and proficiency of the people involved. The higher the adoption, utilization, and proficiency of the people in their new world, the more successful the deliverable will be. It can be argued that if you have good change-readiness, then you will probably be better at change (measure the input - not the output - it's too late to do anything about it by then anyway). It also depends on the source of change. Externally driven change is much more difficult to measure than internally driven change. Basically, it is the lack of adequate control of the objectives, plan, program budget and key deliverables. The dynamics of change where change situations overlap can also create this difficulty in measurement.

The challenge with measuring change has to do with the complexities of the organization that is imposing change upon their employees. It is one thing to establish a future state and understand the intended outcome of the change, but it is quite another thing to implement and measure progress to the future state. Within every organization, there are complex business rules, policies, processes, and performance systems that all govern how people operate. But often people get to a granular level understanding of what behaviors are expected of people under the changes that have taken place. You need to look at the bigger picture. Understand that your perception is just that - only a perception. The fact that you have worked that way all your life does not mean that it is the only way. There are different ways of doing things and it is worthwhile to stop beating the same drum and to come out of your comfort cave and look around.

So bottom line, is whatever the great minds on the core leadership team deem as worthy and proper measures, including both a series of in-process measures and a set of final--desired outcome--measures will be the appropriate ones. Every leader of a change effort had better address the measurement aspect rigorously and forthrightly with the stakeholders comprising the core change team early on. This is critical since it will help set the course of the whole change plan. Change indeed is difficult to measure unless all parties involved in the change take ownership of the change and see why and what the change is about. Individuals differ in managing the change. If the change is to benefit the organization and the individual who is implementing the change, then it can be measured when the objectives of the change are realized and the organization is moving forward.


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