In any change project, there is pressure to be 'on track' according to the implementation plan. Not being on plan triggers greater scrutiny and reporting. If they can't get back on track, then their abilities come into question too. People learn quickly that life is better when they are on plan and may say they are on track when they aren't.
This dynamic intensifies just before taking on new ways of working because that's when risks are the greatest - will the systems work, will people know what to do, will performance drop, will the business run? Scrutiny, reporting and concern about abilities are the greatest when there is little time solve problems.
At this time, is important to conduct an independent assessment of readiness to minimize personal biases. In change management lingo, a 'readiness assessment' needs to be conducted to validate that things will work properly and people are able to operate effectively in the new environment.
One way to assess readiness is to hold department or team-based question and answer sessions for leaders to address outstanding questions people have before taking on new ways of working. This helps determine how prepared they are and reduces confusion about their roles and how they interact with others.
There are many indicators of readiness at these sessions:
- Tone: Is there a positive or negative orientation to the questions?
- Number of unknowns: Is there a long list of questions?
- Level of awareness: Should people already know the answers?
- Breadth of knowledge: Are there answers for all of the questions (or do people know where they can be found)?
- Confidence: Are the leaders confident in their answers?
- Attendance: Is there good attendance at the sessions - do people show up?
- Participation: Are the sessions one-way monologues or two-way conversations?
- Creation mindset: Do people support and expand on the answers that leaders give?
- Visual cues: Is body language open and positive?
- Humour: Are people smiling and/or are jokes being shared?
- Realistic expectations: Do leaders set fair expectations for post-change performance - is there permission to learn by doing or is 'perfect' mandated?
- Acknowledgement: Do leaders thank people for their efforts - is anything being celebrated?
I facilitated a readiness Q&A session this week. It was one of the best I have seen. It was a good conversation about how the team will work together and all indicators confirmed their ability to do so. They are ready to go.
Perhaps the most telling indicator is if people ask you why you are asking if they are ready to take on change - why wouldn't they be ready?