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Measuring the Success of Change Management Programmes

by Thom Cunningham Burley June 04, 2024

While change is certainly not a new phenomenon, change management programmes have grown and developed significantly in the past 30 to 40 years, spurred largely by three significant drivers.

Freshminds has worked across hundreds of change and transformation programmes, from smaller initiatives at the department level to organisation-wide projects. We have spoken to those responsible for initiating and delivering change programmes - the changemakers - and asked them how they have seen the process of change management developing. We have also asked them how they measure or evaluate the success of their change management programmes. This article summarises some of these findings.

Why Has Change Management Grown in Importance?

Firstly, the pace of change has increased, with shortening macro-economic, political, regulatory, technological, and commercial cycles.

Secondly, change has become more complex, as organisations have grown, become more globally connected, and sought to adapt themselves to increasingly diverse markets.

“Everything changes, and nothing remains still”.  Heraclitus

And lastly, change, or rather the ability to change, has become an ever more critical competitive advantage for businesses whose markets are constantly disrupted by technology.

The recent PwC CEO survey found that 22% of chief executives believed that their current business model would not survive the decade in its current form. Hence – just under a quarter of business leaders are seeking to deliver change that employees and stakeholders can trust.

How to Measure Your Change Management Programme’s Success

It has never been more important to be good at change. And it is only going to become more important still – to recognise the need for change, understand its scope, and then manage the complex processes required to achieve it.

However, running a change management project, with all its constituent moving parts, can spiral out of control if you are not able to effectively measure and control it.

 “Ensure strategic alignment and investment prioritisation – with project success, benefits and value to the organisation clearly defined upfront.” Ian Jones, MD, Devereaux Kelly Associates

There’s a raft of possible measurement criteria out there, and it’s tempting to grab a published list and mould it to suit your particular circumstances.

However, our feedback from working with leaders of change and transformation, across a number of different sectors, has allowed us to streamline the measurement process into broader applicable categories.

Five Key Measurement Criteria of Change Management Programme Success

These are the five key themes that emerge time and again, and the one that trumps them all:

1) Agree on the expected outcome

This sounds simple, but it is about aligning expectations at the outset.

Involving all the critical stakeholders at this stage is key.

Where there is disagreement or divergence, the project leader must resolve it before they proceed. ‘Scope creep’ can be incorporated – as long as the expected outcome has been established.

2) Understand the baseline

A clear and well-understood baseline set of metrics needs to be established.

Without this, progress cannot be communicated, and impact cannot be quantified.

If that baseline data is difficult, or impossible to find, it’s advisable to agree on credible proxies.

3) Set a blend of quantitative and qualitative metrics to measure success

The quantitative measures are likely to include productivity metrics, revenue impacts, or cost savings.

The qualitative measures might include user adoption; job satisfaction; and sentiment/engagement toward the change programme.

Used together, these aspects provide a holistic measure.

4) Measure, review, and communicate regularly

Regularity is probably more important than frequency when it comes to measuring impact and communicating effectively.

Reporting cadence should promote a culture of accountability, not a regime of onerous administration.

5) Measure failure as well as success

There is a very high chance that elements of your change programme will progress with greater difficulty or will deliver results that are lower than anticipated. McKinsey famously claims that 70% of change programmes fail.

Don’t gloss over those failures.

Create review opportunities to capture the learnings on offer, and feed these into the forward-planning activity.

Your trump card and most critical factor

However, the trump card and the single most critical factor in determining if your change programme will fly or fail is your people.

Change imposed from elsewhere (from above, or usually from outside) has a dramatically lower success rate than change driven from within.

Assess the skills, capability, and resources you have within the organisation, and use these as your starting point. Where a resource needs to be brought in, make that enabling and enhancing to the core, and use it as an opportunity to take leaps forward in upskilling teams.

Be sensitive to the threatening nature of change, and communicate clearly with colleagues who may be resistant to change. You need to work together to change mindsets and move forward.

And you need to protect those positive change agents from the detractors who can’t (or won’t) move in the direction of the common good. Don’t shy away from those difficult conversations. As Jim Collins said in his bestselling book Good to Great, which tracks the transformation of ordinary companies into exceptional ones:

 “If you can’t change the people, change the people”. 

Consultants On Demand

Freshminds’ Consultants on Demand division sources experienced change, transformation and strategy professionals to assist with change programmes in a range of sectors. Our trusted network of ex-consultants and operational experts is seeing more and more requests for high-calibre interim change management talent. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

About the Author

Thom Cunningham Burley leads the Freshminds Consultants on Demand practice, deploying project and interim resources to support complex change and transformation, operational improvement, transaction support, and post-merger value creation. You can contact Thom directly here.

Director of Consulting

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