Executive Summary Capability for Change Survey 2022

Running this survey has given us some important insights on the state of change management as a valuable service within organisations facing unprecedented levels of change.

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Running this survey has given us some important insights on the state of change management as a valuable service within organisations facing unprecedented levels of change. 

Our main conclusion from this data is that change management as a service to the business is still in its infancy, as indicated by the low scores across all the assertions. As a community of senior leaders and change professionals we never reached a score of 80% for any of our answers, either how we felt or what we thought. 

The data evidences concern that whilst we are making changes that are aligned to our strategic objectives, we are not optimising our portfolios and we don’t believe that we are prioritising our changes. We do not believe that the volume of change we are undertaking is manageable, so we need to address what we select and how much we select to change.

We don’t believe that those impacted by change always know that change is coming, and we are not supporting staff who are struggling to cope. We haven’t universally adopted best practice approaches for change and we people do not understand or value what change management skills are.

There are pockets of good news appearing throughout the data, and we have highlighted these as we strongly believe we must build on what has been achieved so far by celebrating what we have achieved.

We commissioned this assessment to find the evidence that we can all use to gain the support of our senior leaders in developing the organisational capability for change that matches the volume, scale and complexity of the changes needed to achieve our strategic objectives.  

As stated in the summary of this report, we have concluded that there is work to do to establish change as a valued and respected mechanism for realising the benefits from change.

We also believe there are two main areas for improvement that if adopted would make the greatest contribution to the achievement of this value and respect:

  1. Our selection of changes
  2. Our support for staff

The evidence that our service is still in its infancy comes from low scores in nearly every category. This does not describe a mature profession whose value is understood or a consistent and continually improving level of service.

Of the 28 elements that we assessed; the highest score was 71% for how we think we are doing: aligning change to strategy; talking openly about the pressures of change. The scores for how we feel we are doing were even lower on average, with only one high score of 73% for leader’s role modelling the changes.  For more established management disciplines in our organisations, for example the finance or HR functions, can we imagine them scoring themselves so low?

Our selection of changes

The volume of changes we are experiencing is high, and we have limited resources dedicated to change. Therefore, we need careful choices of what we change and how many of these changes we commission at any one time.

We don’t believe we are optimising our portfolios and we don’t believe that we are prioritising our changes. Approximately one third of us think and feel that we are optimising our change portfolio and less than one third feel that we are prioritising, with just over half thinking we prioritise. Perhaps we have prioritisation criteria in place, but we are not applying it?

Does this mean there is a disconnect between those on the ground making change happen and the prioritisation decision making happening at board level? We can see that the changes are strategically the right things to be doing, but that doesn’t mean we have the right volume of changes. Are the very low scores for people know that change is coming and believing the changes are manageable a result of this lack of portfolio management?

We are not checking that are changes are adding value, so we lose the opportunity to make the argument that we have created benefits for our organisations, and this is only possible because we are so well organised in how we manage change. Further evidence of this is that less than a fifth of us feel we are acknowledging and celebrating our achievements. 

It makes us question if we busy but not effective? We have a high volume of strategically important changes, but we could do more to sift through the “winners” to find those that will deliver the most value. The low scores for measuring the benefits of what we are achieving harm our ability to do this, because we don’t have the data that says, “by changing this we achieved these benefits so we should do more of these types of changes”.

Our support for staff

We question if the scores for supporting people who are struggling with change would be higher if more than one third of us felt that the skills for change management are known and respected? If we are not training people in how to manage themselves and their colleagues through change, then we are missing an early opportunity to support them by giving them the skills to support themselves.

Putting this into the context of a force field analysis, we are failing to maximise the driving forces, the natural motivation that is generated from achieving change, and failing to minimise the restraining forces created by the fear and stress of change.

If we achieve nothing else in 2023, it would be good to see us all put simple, intuitive steps in place to support those who don’t change at the pace we want, who struggle with adopting new ways of working and finish work each day troubled by the pressure they are under. Let’s ensure that celebration and thanking people for their efforts becomes a regular agenda item of every team meeting, at every level within our organisations.

Given that most organisations have a very few change professionals supporting the changes they want to deliver it is clear that there needs to be a wider resource pool.

Development of skills should not be limited to a few professionals but we should seek to build a wider set of capabilities to enable employees to know what to do, empower them to do it, help them to become resilient and put in place support mechanisms at a local level to provide the right help and support relevant to the types of changes they are involved in.

Your Next Steps

The outputs from this survey have provided significant learning points. Those of you who contributed to the survey have your own report of your data to compare against these summary results.

Take the 2023 survey here

For more detail, and to create your own benchmark, you may wish to follow the lead of some of the contributors who decided to commission the survey in-house. This has provided them with data from across all their colleagues involved in project; programme; portfolio; organisational design; strategic development. This has created a sense of ownership across the organisation for further development of the capability and capacity for change. Contact us to set this up

As we have highlighted, there are positives in this data and we strongly recommend you share this, as gaining support for our professional discipline will not be helped by only talking of what we do badly. If you were a contributor to the survey, your personal report will identify your specific high-points, and you can build upon these by further developing processes, policies, standards, training, and metrics to bed them down even more. 

Development of your capability is yet another change for our organisations, so it is important to be selective about the areas we address. After all, only 38% of us feel that people have the time to adopt new ways of working and 43% of us feel we our level of change is manageable.

Consider intervening at the point of need, using the start of any aspect of change and transformation as your entry point. Building capability with those who implementing change in their areas of the business is different to building a wider professionalism in change professionals. In this case, ensure the interventions address the most common problems of change fatigue and resistance to new ways of working. Ensure that what we provide is practical: step by step solutions; short-cuts; tried and tested techniques.

This capability building is an essential building block for creating support for change management. Only 33% feel that our skill set is known or respected and its corollary, that activities to manage change are known, and that 39% of us feel we are developing these skills in our people. Find those people in your organisation that believe managing change is important. Three quarters of you said this was true for your organisation, so we know our colleagues want help in this area.

Finally, let’s keep improving. Many of us work in organisations where continuous improvement is in operation for all areas of the business, so we should adopt it for our change management practice. We know there are low scores for tracking if our approach is being followed and updating our approach with lessons learned, so we have work to do. In every change, from the beginning we must question if our process is understood and step in urgently when this is not the case. This will also provide support to those who are struggling to adopt change, as we are there to guide and encourage their involvement.