Change Readiness

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Not being ready for a change implementation on the “launch date” can have huge implications in the marketplace, with your customers, and on your bottom line. Consequently, change readiness should be addressed in the planning phase of a change initiative.

There are two different sides of readiness: workplace readiness and employee readiness. Workplace readiness is the process of making sure that physical facilities have the equipment, desks, chairs, file cabinets, lights, and other physical necessities for employees to perform their jobs. Employee readiness is the process of ensuring the employees are trained for the new system or procedures, understand their role in the change, and know how to do their jobs.

Recruit Readiness Coordinators

As soon as you inform employees that the change is coming, begin the readiness work by recruiting readiness coordinators. Readiness coordinators are staff members that manage the journey for small groups of employees throughout the change process and implementation. Giving a briefing of what’s going on, conducting change analysis sessions, scheduling people for training, testing after the training, surveying the employees about readiness, and other change-related activities can all be orchestrated through the readiness coordinators. They are the legs, ears, and eyes of your readiness process. They also bring information, feedback, questions, and concerns from the employees to the project management team.

Define Employee Groups

Divide the employees into appropriate, manageable groups. The most logical way to do this is to use the existing groups or departments as your starting point and then break these groups down into smaller groups of ten to twenty people each.

Select Your Readiness Leader

The person assigned to lead and manage the readiness coordinators will serve as a vital link between the front lines and your change project team. This person will manage the team of readiness coordinators throughout the organization.

A successful readiness coordinator leader will have:

  • Adept facilitation skills
  • Strong organization skills
  • Management and cross functional management experience
  • Knowledge of the organization and how it’s run. (You wouldn’t want to select the project team member who’s been at the company for only 6 months to do this job. You want a leader who’s been with the company for at least 3 years.)

The primary objective of the readiness coordinator leader is to maintain a continuous flow of information between the change project team, readiness coordinators, and the employees in their respective units.

Identify Functional Support Areas

The key functional support areas are your vital links. If the change involves moving employees, you need to include facilities management. If the change involves the computer system, you need to include the information technology group and possibly the training group. In most cases, the human resources department needs to be involved, particularly if you are dealing with outplacement.

Do a thorough assessment of all the linkages and include them and how they need to be engaged in your readiness plans.

Define the Readiness Requirements

Your readiness requirements will be determined by what sort of change initiative you are leading. Include people at all levels of the organization when you are determining these requirements. Together with your project team, identify all employee concerns, questions, and issues. Your objective is to identify and collect these concerns on as local a level as possible.

Once you have identified the concerns, questions, and issues, divide them into the organizational readiness categories of:

  • Employees
  • Equipment/Facilities
  • Systems
  • Operations
  • Customers

By placing these issues and questions into the appropriate categories, you can address them in a more efficient and succinct manner.

Develop Action Plans

Develop specific action plans to accomplish all of the readiness requirements you have defined. These plans, which are based on critical needs, time frames, and priorities, include setting up training courses, getting people scheduled for training, facilitating readiness surveys, testing skills, and all the other tasks that need to be accomplished.

If you find that you won’t be fully ready because the volume of new work is slowing your pace, it might make sense to bring in some temporary help for a period of time while you’re making the transition.

Finally, you must have the ability and the confidence to put the brakes on if you’re not ready. All of your planning should be around not having that happen, but if you find that you are truly not ready, you shouldn’t go forward.

Jim Canterucci

I don’t know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On June 9, 2008
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