Purposeful change (part one)

A global scientific study of more than 3,500 teams investigated the causes of frictions that hinder successful change (see also one of our earlier blogs on frictions that cause most change management initiatives to fail):

  • lack of support or agreement: 70% of teams disagree with management’s priorities. And 40% of the teams surveyed disagree among themselves.
  • lack of focus: more than 60% of the teams set too many priorities with either a high level of ambition for improvement (not realistic) or a low level of ambition (no focus). Only 3% of the set a manageable number of goals with a high level of ambition.
  • overexertion: in 80% of cases, the effort to be made is either too high for the people involved and/or not evenly distributed within the team.
  • insufficient capacity: in 50% of cases there is insufficient capacity to implement the change.

With this knowledge it is not surprising that most change projects fail or do not achieve their goals …

How would you know where you are, and what to do?
Let’s assume that you have taken all the steps to make your organization more responsive. And you have a strategic plan that is now being followed. How do you know how if your organization is progressing according to plan, or better? How do the teams score on the relevant factors of Agreement, Focus, Effort and Capacity? And is everybody aligned on what should be done next?

Ask everyone involved
All of them? Certainly! Moving As One means involving everyone in the motion you want to create! This is necessary for a committed and responsive organization. And it is easier and simpler than you think if the monitoring tool meets two conditions:

Use a real-time AI platform
Technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) enable us to use valuable data and insights from research in real time. In clear dashboards, for all levels: individual, team, department, business unit, organization. Now everbody can really be “on the same songsheet”!

Unfortunately, too few companies are still aware of its possibilities.

“Amazon has brought the world same-day delivery, but we still have to wait three months for the results of the employee engagement survey.”

Amazon executive in ‘Big-4 or Big Tech:Who Drills First?
The Search for A.I. that drives automated consultancy.’

Quality of the questions
The quality of the questions determines the quality of the answers. Many organizational studies use the “Likert” scale, a so-called “psychometric” that charts people’s opinions or feelings. We all know them well, for example in a question or statement like this one:

My role, tasks and responsibilities are clear.


Opinions and feelings are not verifiable
The disadvantage of this kind of surveys is that opinions and feelings – although important – are not verifiable. Such questions are not about facts or actual behavior. While the causes of friction always concern specific priorities with which an organization wants to move forward. Moreover, you want to get people moving with concrete actions – and the right actions.

Verifiable questions
What if we twist the above question and base the answers on verifiable and factual behavior. For example:

To what extent are your role, tasks and responsibilities clear?
Not at allO
Discussed with my manager, not documentedO
Discussed with my manager, and documentedO

As you can see, a number of verifiable maturity levels are linked to the question. These will help to set priorities, create focus and involve all people in the team or organization. To this end, we add one more dimension: what is the situation now and what does the respondent want to realize with regard to this question in, for example, three months? Then the possible answers will look like this:

To what extent are your role, tasks and responsibilities clear?Today In 3 months
Not at allO
Discussed with my manager, not documentedO
Discussed with my manager, and documentedOO

Now suppose you have 20-25 questions (which takes appr. 15 minutes per respondent). They are about what you and your management team consider important in the organization. For example: psychological safety, individuals come into their own, there is enthusiasm for our organizational goals. Or whatever strategic area: agile working methods, following safety procedures, reducing working capital. Now you can have an overview of how your organization actually scores on these relevant aspects. You also see what people themselves would see as priorities, which gives you insight in what is needed to move forward with any team.

And that in turn will help you map out the support, focus and available capacity for change. Now your change program becomes concrete and possible frictions are known. E.g. because people think differently about priorities than management. Or because it becomes clear that there is insufficient capacity when certain changes are “pushed through”.

This immediately – remember to use online AI in realtime – makes it clear what the feasibility of the change plan is and what you need to do to increase it. Now you know what aspects in the priorities are covered well and which ones need more attention from management. The organization will be involved better in what needs to be done.

The next blog in this series – Purposeful change part two – explains how you can bring it all together.