How Good Are Your Change Management Skills?

Find out which change management skills you need to improve.

© iStockphoto/alexsl

For most organizations, change is inevitable. Because of this, you'll most likely be involved in managing a change project at some point – be it a simple change to the way your team deals with customer complaints, or a major change in organizational policy or strategy.

When you manage change effectively, you can move your organization into the new "business as usual" state swiftly, and you'll find that other people are quick to accept change. This means that your team and organization experiences minimum disruption, and projects succeed, rather than stall and fail.

The quiz below helps you assess your change management skills. By using it, you can learn for yourself where your skills are strong, and where you need to develop new skills.

We then guide you through the key areas of change management, and give links to resources that you can use to further develop your change management skills.

How Good Are Your Change Management Skills?

Instructions:

For each statement, click the button in the column that best describes you. Please answer questions as you actually are (rather than how you think you should be), and don't worry if some questions seem to score in the 'wrong direction'. When you are finished, please click the 'Calculate My Total' button at the bottom of the test.

   16 Statements to Answer

Not
at All
Rarely Some
times
Often Very
Often
1 I usually receive good support from senior executives for changes that I want to implement.
2 I create a plan for change for my department and team, and I let other departments deal with the impacts as they choose.
3 I communicate successes throughout the organization, so that everyone understands the positive impact of a change project.
4 If the change makes financial and operational sense, then it will work.
5 If the team is dissatisfied with how something is working or operating right now, change is more likely to be successful.
6 I try to understand my organization's culture and values as important elements of a change project.
7 When change is happening, I expect people to continue to perform at 100 percent.
8 Once I'm successful with a change project, I declare victory and move onto the next project.
9 I consider things like the impact on people and organizational structure when planning a change project.
10 If I think something must be changed, I start right away and make it happen.
11 To get backing and support from my team, I talk with team members about what is causing the need for change.
12 I let people get comfortable with changes before I decide if any training is necessary.
13 If key individuals are convinced that change is needed, the rest of the stakeholders will usually come on board.
14 It’s harder to manage change effectively when the organization has previously managed change projects badly.
15 When implementing a change project, I set achievable, short-term targets that, once accomplished, will motivate people to persist and keep trying.
16 Change is as good as a rest, so even though it might not be necessary, it often helps to "mix things up a bit."
Calculate My Total
Total = 0

Score Interpretation

Score Comment
16-36 You tend to look at the end result and forget to focus on the immediate planning needs. To be successful with change, you must find a way to communicate and share the excitement of the end goal with your team, as a way of creating the necessary support. Take time to work through the sections below in detail to learn how to do this.
37-58 You understand many of the elements required for change, but putting them into practice doesn't always work well. Concentrate on developing a process that allows you to work on each of the elements of change one after the other. The ideas and resources below will help you do this.
59-80 You have a very good understanding of what makes change successful, and you have a good knowledge of managing, planning, and implementing change. Skim the sections below to see if there are any ideas that you can use to get even better.

The questions you just answered relate to four key areas of successful change management. They are:

  1. Understanding change.
  2. Planning change.
  3. Managing resistance to change.
  4. Implementing change.

By addressing each area, you'll be better prepared to plan and implement successful change projects. We'll look at each area separately, and provide links to more in-depth resources that you can use in the change management   process.

Understanding Change

(Questions 1, 7, 10, 14)

Before you manage a project that involves changing the way that people work, you must first understand how people react to change. Then you'll be in a better position to plan proactively for the stages of change, and for the effect that change has on your organization.

The Change Curve   theory describes people's reactions to each stage of change. These reactions can range from "shock and denial," when business as usual is first disrupted, to "acceptance" and "commitment," as the change is implemented.

Many people need time to adjust and accept the change. So levels of performance may fall as they learn how to use new systems and processes. Lewin's Change Management Model   of "Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze" highlights why you need to build sufficient time into the process for people to adjust, and provide a lot of consultation with those affected by the change.

Planning Change

(Questions 2, 4, 6, 9)

The quote that "If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail" is as true with change management as it is with anything else. As ever, thorough preparation is the key to successful planning.

As part of this, conducting an Impact Analysis   will help you understand the possible positive and negative consequences of change, so that you can develop contingency plans to deal with any issues that may arise.

The Burke-Litwin Change Model   will help you identify every potential area of impact. It maps out the interrelated complexity of organizational structures, and helps you track how your proposed change project will affect other areas of your organization. Leavitt's Diamond   is another tool that analyzes how change can impact your organization. It looks at the four major components of an organization – structure, technology, people, and tasks – and helps you think about how changes to these components can affect each other.

You can also use McKinsey's 7S Framework   to help you look at every affected area, and ensure that you keep issues aligned and congruent   throughout the organization. Organizational design   issues are particularly important, because you must ensure that your changes can be supported by your team and organization, using available resources.

Finally, the tools and techniques taught in our Project Management section will help you when it comes to planning how you'll implement change.

Managing Resistance to Change

(Questions 5, 11, 13, 16)

Many people are uncomfortable with change. So a large part of managing change is overcoming resistance, and promoting acceptance and belief in the change.

You can overcome this resistance by communicating effectively. Talk about why change is necessary, and share your vision   of change with everyone. This includes talking to all stakeholders   and getting their support early in the process. These early discussions can help you assess the various barriers to change, and then plan how to manage stakeholders as you move the project forward.

According to Beckhard and Harris's Change Equation  , for people to be motivated to change, they must be dissatisfied with the current situation, and must think that the proposed solution is desirable and practical. Use this equation to assess readiness for change, so you can ensure that a change is actually needed, and that your planned changes will result in significant benefits.

The RACI Matrix   is another useful tool that can help you manage resistance to change. It shows you how to structure the various responsibilities between the change team and the rest of the stakeholders. You'll be able to deal with natural resistance, and manage issues that occur throughout the process, by keeping your communication open and well organized.

Implementing Change

(Questions 3, 8, 12, 15)

When you implement change, further communication is crucial – you'll almost certainly have problems at some point, and if you aren't regularly talking about the plan and communicating your successes, people may go back to old ways of doing things.

Conduct Training Needs Assessments   at various stages of the project to ensure that people have the skills they need to be successful as the change is implemented. People must be confident that they can do what they're being asked to do – so the time for training is before, during, and after the change.

Kotter's 8-Step Change Model   is a useful overall change management tool, and the last three steps of it are crucial for successful implementation. These three steps are:

  • Create short-term wins.
  • Build on the change.
  • Anchor the changes in corporate culture.

So aim for a few early achievements to showcase the benefits of the change. This can help keep motivation and enthusiasm for the change high.

Then highlight building on the change you started, and work toward making it part of the organizational culture. This can separate "good" change management from "great" change management. Good change management is when you are satisfied when you meet your initial objective. Great change management is when you keep adjusting your target for continuous improvement – you aren't afraid to keep changing things, because you're confident in your ability to keep making progress.

Tip:

For a unique perspective on effective change management, read our article on Why Change Can Fail  . If you avoid the common mistakes outlined in this article, you’ll improve your chances of managing change successfully.

Key Points

Managing change is a challenging and important task. If you apply a process and use a variety of tools, you can design a change plan that people will accept and work hard to implement, leading to less disruption to your team and organization.

Because change doesn't happen in isolation, you must understand how change works, then broaden your thinking, brainstorm potential impacts, and maintain open communication with people.

Change management doesn't end as soon as the change is implemented. Make sure that you continue to communicate achievements, and ensure that people have the skills needed to do what they are being asked to do.

By taking an extensive and proactive approach to your change projects, you'll enjoy greater success, and you'll be able to build on that success for many other change projects in the future.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

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Comments (2)
  • Yolande wrote Over a month ago
    There is a saying, "Change before you have to." Implementing a change management strategy in time will give you enough time to plan & execute with excellence.

    What do others find difficult about change management?

    Yolandé
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    This is a really great tool with loads of links to additional resources that can help you as you manage and implement change in any size of organization.

    I believe many of us have experienced times when change was implemented poorly, and the negative effect it had on everyone. Yet, when change is implemented well, and everyone is on board with what is happening ... there is a very positive effect on the team where people become excited, re-invigorated and looking forward to the new challenges ahead!

    If you are involved with any change process, using the ideas from the tool will most certainly smooth the way for a successful implementation!

    Midgie

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