While its relatively straightforward to monitor the performance of a risky technical component, track defects, and make a binary “go” or “no go” decision as to whether that component can be used, monitoring and controlling the effectiveness of organizational change activities are often more difficult, given their emotional and typically subtle nature. How do we know that individual employees are accepting the change or are we about to experience a mutiny? How do we know that the impacted organizations have been able to adapt and accept the changes, or are the supporting roles, processes and procedures going to undermine or undo all of our efforts? How fast can we expect a change-averse culture to change? How do we know if we’re going too fast? Can we go faster?
The solution is the same as for the technical component; we establish a monitoring mechanism which tests the response of the impacted areas against the desired result. The big difference is in how the monitoring and measuring is done. In the case of the technical component we establish a performance standard and collect empirical data which measures performance against that standard. If the standard is met we’re in the clear, if not it triggers a contingency plan. With organizational change both the performance standard and the data collected may be more qualitative and subjective but it still serves its purpose; determining if there is (or is not) a problem and if a problem does exist, doing something different to influence the outcome.
For example, consider the project where the first indication that training or change management were not successful is when a major business process (like billing or payroll) cannot be executed? Clearly we need ways to identify and implement course corrections long before they reach the critical stage of final implementation.
Issue Log Monitoring
One approach to monitoring is to use the project issue log or create an additional log for concerns; items which are not immediately solvable or actionable. Assuming that the team is diligent in reporting organizational change related issues or concerns, the frequency and severity of issues can signal a developing problem, especially when sudden increases are observed in a single area. If the team also compares the issue and/or concerns log with the risk register, which has clearly identified organizational change risks, certain elements in the logs will stand out and can be interpreted as increasing risk probability or trigger a contingency plan.
Surveys or questionnaires to monitor critical elements associated with organizational change provide a more structured approach to monitoring organizational change risks. In this approach the project team creates a survey designed to elicit feedback from the organization about its perception of the project and the organizational change factors which may contribute to the success (or failure) of the effort. By conducting the survey at regular intervals and comparing result from survey to survey, the team can quickly identify areas which require more attention and intervention.
While creating and administering a survey represent additional time and cost to the project there are a number of benefits to be considered: 1)Collecting this information forces regular and systematic review of the project as it is perceived by the impacted organizations, 2) As the survey is used from project to project it can be improved and reused, 3)The survey can quickly collect feedback from a large part of the organization, increasing the visibility of the project and reducing unanticipated or unwelcome reactions.
In conclusion, organizational changes and the management of those changes can be a critical component for project success. While the discipline of organizational change management may not be the primary focus of the project,, attention is required to understand what organizational changes may be required and their impact to both organizations and individuals. Understanding the nature and scope of these changes enable the project team to more effectively plan, execute, and monitor their execution and effectiveness.