How to Measure Change Management

April 9, 2019 by Stacey Barr

If you leave your selection of change management metrics to chance, you leave the success of your change initiative to chance as well. So don’t resort to shopping lists of change metrics – here’s how to design the measures you really need.

Wooden cube flip with word change to chance. Image credit to marchmeena29.

We all know that change is the only constant. We also know that the world seems to be changing faster than it ever has before. So we humans need to become more adaptable, flexible and resilient to change. Little wonder that change management has such a spotlight in business now.

Prosci, one of the leading change management specialists, defines change management this way:

“Change management is the discipline that guides how we prepare, equip and support individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive organizational success and outcomes.”

So any strategic initiative we choose, any improvement project, and even any necessary upgrade to systems and processes to keep our organisation relevant in a changing world, means change. But it’s how our people need to change that’s at the core of change management.

Change management is a soft science.

And as such, it’s a little challenging to measure it well. But just like measuring engine oil level so you know your engine is going to keep running, change management is the lubricant for project and initiative success. And so the importance of measuring change is growing.

Prosci report that 40% of their research participants must report on how well change management is working in their projects. More organisations realise that hard systems (policies, processes, tools, and such) changes are
rarely successful unless the soft system (people’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviours) changes too.

Is this urgency for change management increasing for your organisation, too? If so, there’s every chance you’re still struggling to measure it meaningfully. And without meaningful
measures to monitor change management, it’s really hard to make it work. But be warned: don’t look for quick-fix change metrics.

The challenges of measuring change management aren’t solved by lists of change metrics.

While Prosci have a very robust and proven approach to managing change, their approach to measuring it, based on sample metrics they share, seems too trivial. They do offer a logical framework for the dimensions of change management that are important to measure. But the measures they suggest are a mix of ambiguous phrases and data collection methods, such as:

  • “Performance improvements” – not a measure because it’s simply saying “stuff got better”.
  • “Employee feedback” – not a measure because it’s a data type and may form the basis of many different types of measures.
  • “Communication effectiveness” – not a measure because it’s weasely and not at all obvious what is being quantified.

These are definitely not clear, quantitative performance measures. And it’s not surprising, really. Prosci’s suggested measures came from research asking organisations what they use to measure change management. There’s a glaring problem with this: most organisations struggle terribly with measuring intangible concepts, and so cannot be considered experts in how to meaningfully measure something as intangible and multi-dimensional as change management.

The problem is that adopting shopping lists of measures, like ready-made change metrics lists, leaves you stuck on exactly how to quantify the change management results that matter specifically to your organisation.

Start by building a framework of change management results worth measuring.

Prosci’s frameworks on what about change management to measure is so helpful as a starting point. They suggest that three areas of change management should be measured:

  • organisational performance – the outcomes that the change intended to achieve for the organisation (this should come from your strategic or operational goals, and ideally they will already have great measures)
  • individual performance – the progress of employees through the change process (Prosci the ADKAR model to help identify a useful range of individual performance results)
  • change management performance – the success of the change management activities (and it might be useful to flowchart your change management process to thoroughly scan for the priority steps or parts to measure)

So a first step to meaningfully measure change management is to be clear about the few results that matter most to your organisation, at this point in time, in each of these categories:

  • Which specific organisational outcomes should this change initiative help achieve?
  • In which specific ways must the people involved change to sustain these outcomes?
  • Therefore, which specific parts of the change management process must work, above all else?

Every organisation needs to tailor the specific change management results to suit their own desired future outcomes, their own current state, and their own change approach. This list of tailored change management results becomes the focus of what to measure.

Design proper change management measures, only after you have a results framework.

Yes, it takes work to think about and decide exactly what you want a change initiative to, well, change. It’s harder work than finding meaningful measures of change, in fact. Because once you are clear about the specific organisational, individual and change process results that matter to your unique situation, it’s a simple procedure to design great measures using PuMP’s Measure Design technique.

Don’t leave your change management metrics to chance by looking for ready-made lists. Instead, directly measure the specific and unique change results relevant to your change initiative.
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DISCUSSION:

Think of a single change initiative you want to succeed. What are some of the specific and unique results (organisational, individual and change process) that you want? Describe them as clearly and observably as you can. And only then, have a go at designing the best measure for each of them.

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