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Change Readiness Assessment for Business

Change readiness is about understanding how we each perceive a change and therefore how we will most likely respond to it. At the heart of effective human behaviour change lies both awareness and empathy.

Introducing Change Readiness

In order to understand what Change Readiness is, it may be worth trying a Change Readiness Assessment. This will help you to see that there many factors that can cause us to engage in or resist change, whether we are aware we are doing it or not. If you’ve ever tried pushing through big changes in business or elsewhere you may have noticed just how creative we can all be in resisting change, especially if we feel it’s being forced upon us. There are many reasons why we may resist change, from specifics about the change itself and its impact on us as individuals, to our own personal traits, beliefs or values or that sense of belonging (or not) to a common cause. The opposite of resistance is engagement and the key to engagement is to understand and then unpick the causes of resistance. Then the more we all engage the easier for all of us the change becomes.

A ‘Change Readiness’ Assessment aims to identify those sources of resistance from the perspective of those we seek to influence and thereby provides useful insights into useful things we can do to increase our chance of success. 

Underpinning these assessments are a number of change models and a huge body of research. The rest of this article summarises what’s out there already and thereby what a readiness assessment is looking for. We’ll start by taking a deeper look at the term ‘Change Management’.

How is the Term ‘Change Management’ used? 

The term ‘change management’ is used in a number of different ways, however there are  two broad distinctions between the uses of the term, especially with regard to change management systems: 

  1. Firstly, Change Management as the procedure an organisation puts in place to ensure that  any potential impact caused by new systems and processes has a minimal impact on normal  business. This is often referred to as change control, configuration management or  deployment management or could be a combination of all three. 
  2. Secondly, Change Management being the methods taken on board to influence behaviour at  scale when an organisation needs to make big (sometimes fundamental) changes to the way it works or even to what it does. An example here could be a fossil fuel-based energy company that wants to become a renewables-based energy company.  

Here, we’re focussing on the latter. 

What are the Existing Change Models? 

There are dozens of change models and a huge body of research on change. Underpinning the different models and the research is influencing human behaviour at scale and that is true regardless of the nature of the change, from a new IT system to our response to a global pandemic or reducing carbon emissions. We’ve summarised below some of the more popular models but there are many others that are equally valid and that offer something useful. 

Kotter’s 8 Steps

One of the biggest names in corporate change and often taught in business schools, Kotter’s 8 gives a useful framework and clear guidance. The 8 steps are as follows:

Step 1. Create Urgency

Step 2. Form a Powerful Coalition

Step 3. Create a Vision for Change

Step 4. Communicate the Vision

Step 5. Remove Obstacles

Step 6. Create Short-Term Wins

Step 7. Build on the Change

Step 8. Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture

In our experience it’s useful to recognise that while there is a general sequence from 1 to 8 in practice it’s often necessary to review and sometimes go back to previous steps as situations change. 

ADKAR by Prosci

This is a relatively new model that’s been around since the mid-2000s but is gaining traction in many organisations. 

A – build AWARENESS

D – create DESIRE 

K – develop KNOWLEDGE

A – foster ABILITY

R – REINFORCE changes 

McKinsey: Four Conditions for Changing Mind-Sets

These four key actions look towards influencing employee mind-sets and behaviour.

  1. Fostering understanding and conviction
  2. Reinforcing with formal mechanisms
  3. Developing talent and skills
  4. Role modelling

Nudge Theory

Nudge theory looks to achieve change in people by avoiding traditional methods of instruction & enforcement and is instead based on indirect encouragement and enablement.

Nudge theory accepts that individuals (and society as a whole) have certain attitudes, behaviours and habits and allows for these factors in a realistic and practical way.

Example: If the desired behaviour in your office was to reduce printing costs and encourage more movement, the nudge would be to remove all the printers (but one) from the floor or office. People would then inherently reconsider if they needed to print something and also benefit from some exercise if they did.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ Change Curve 

Pioneered in 1969, although not initially a model for change management in business, the model’s principles can still be applied for change readiness in the workplace.

The 5 stages included in this model are 

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

These defense/coping mechanisms are needed to be understood and acknowledged in order to manage change and it’s also important to understand that these stages are not always in a neat & linear order. You can see more on this in our blog here

The ‘7 ‘R’s of Change Management’

The 7 ‘R’s of change management are ultimately a checklist which poses some simple questions to help introduce and normalise the process of change management to those who are unfamiliar;

  1. What is the REASON behind the change? 
  2. Who has RAISED the change request? 
  3. What RESOURCES are required to deliver the change? 
  4. What are the RISKS involved in the requested change? 
  5. What is the expected RETURN required from the change? 
  6. Who is RESPONSIBLE for creating, testing, and implementing the change? 
  7. What is the RELATIONSHIP between the suggested change and other changes? 

As processes and tasks within a project or organisation are often dependent on each other, linking  up what needs to happen, and in what order is an incredibly important step in making change happen successfully.

Some other notable change models include:

  • Transtheoretical Model 
  • Kurt Lewin: Forcefield Theory & Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze Model 
  • McKinsey 7S (albeit not specifically a change model) 

5 key THEMES for successful Change Management 

There’s clearly an overwhelming amount of research and information on the topic and it can appreciably feel a little overwhelming. So, we’ve simplified what we’ve learnt over the years into five key themes that underpin every change, regardless of topic or scale, from 100 people using a new IT system to reducing global carbon emissions. And that’s because they address the human and behavioural principles that cause us to either resist or engage in any change. Once we’re fully engaged almost anything is possible. 

The reason we did this is that we wanted something that is practical, easy to understand and (most importantly) measurable. 

The five themes and the change readiness assessment process have both been developed in collaboration with the UWE Psychological Sciences team in Bristol. They combine the latest in  behavioural research, our own experience of change in a wide range of different organisations and sectors, whilst also building upon existing well-known change models. 

  1. Our strength of motivation to change. 
  2. How well we’re dealing with any perceived obstacles working against our ability or desire to  change. 
  3. How achievable it feels. Can we see how we’ll get there and what progress we’re making? 
  4. Our ability to make the changes stick for the long term. Are we paying attention to forming the  required new long term habits and behaviours? 
  5. The extent to which we are continually assessing, reflecting and adapting as needed. Are we  doing that with honesty, a sense of curiosity and an awareness of any biases? 

In Summary 

At Applied Change, we have a range of resources available for those who are looking to better understand the challenges and solutions around change management in business and beyond. 

Why not try looking at this change readiness survey today to find out more?