What is Change readiness: everything you need to know

Change readiness is a broad topic, and one with no easy answers. Here, we explore how it fits into wider change management and the impact of high change readiness on our operations, as well as the tools we can use to measure readiness and how to improve readiness for change to ensure smooth and long-term changes. 

What is change readiness?

Change management can mean a lot of different things to different people. At its heart though, change management can be defined as the methods and approaches used to influence human behaviour. Consider that when change involves lots of people, each one of them will in fact change within themselves in some way, so change management can also be defined as helping people to change themselves. 

The types of change in business could include the implementation of a new CRM system, new ways of working, or the transformation of an entire organisational culture or structure. Regardless of the topic, change involves people, so that’s the focus of change management. 

However, this process can be hindered when people are not fully prepared for a transition – this is where change readiness comes in. As a concept, it’s the extent to which those involved in a change are ready to engage with it, so low change readiness can have some disastrous consequences for our goals.

 In general, individuals ready for change are more likely to exert greater effort, persist against setbacks, and cooperate with others to achieve their aims. This gives us a much greater chance of sustaining any changes in the long term. 

What are the 5 stages of change readiness? 

One way to determine how receptive we are to change, is to apply the transtheoretical model, also known as the 5 stages of change. This is a behavioural model developed in the 1970s from studies comparing the experiences of smokers who quit on their own versus those who required more support to quit.

The consensus was that smokers could only quit unassisted if they were mentally able to want to, and this conclusion helps organisations with change readiness tool. Let’s go through the 5 stages: 

Precontemplation

This stage can be defined as unreceptive to change since those within this stage do not intend to act for the near future. In this stage, we don’t appreciate the value of the change, but instead see the effort of implementation as outweighing any potential gains. 

Contemplation 

In this stage, we are receptive to but not sold on change. While we may be weighing up the practical pros and cons, we are still mostly ambivalent towards change. 

Preparation 

At stage 3, we are ready to act within the next 30 days. We’ve begun laying the groundwork for our transition, and we truly believe that the change will bring a positive impact. 

Action

By stage 4, we have actioned the change and intend to maintain it in the future. We’re solving any teething problems and remaining dedicated to the change. 

Maintenance 

By the final stage, we’ve sustained change and monitored its outcomes, intending to maintain it. This stage is all about people being dedicated to retaining the change and avoiding relapse to earlier stages. 

In understanding change readiness, the next job is to identify where each person on the change journey fits into this model. By identifying how receptive our teams are to change, we can adjust our plans to best prepare ourselves for change in the future.

What is a change readiness assessment?

Knowing a change would make a positive impact and putting in the effort to make the change are two very different things. We know that a new exercise regime is good for us, but in practice, it’s difficult to commit to. Change readiness is concerned with identifying how ready we are to commit to doing something, even if we know it would have a positive impact. It’s a useful way to test the water with the people involved in or affected by a change. 

A change readiness assessment helps us to understand where those involved are in terms of the stages of change; in other words, how ready are they? And if they are not ready, what can we do to help them become more ready? 

It’s easy to underestimate how much of our reception to change is driven by emotion; if our choices weren’t determined by our feelings, everyone would make the same choices based on the same logic, so we must factor individual emotion into our assessments of change readiness. 

Our assessment evaluates individual emotions and mentality to determine a score based on 5 key themes: 

– Our strength of motivation to change 

– How well we handle obstacles to change 

– How achievable the end goal feels 

– Our ability to make the change last long-term 

– How openly and honestly we approach the possibility of the need for continuous change and adaptation in the future 

Why is change readiness assessment so important? 

This kind of assessment is crucial to the success of any change, regardless of its scope or nature, since the dedication and attitudes of those implementing and experiencing a change are key to its effectiveness. If we don’t fully believe in or see value in a change, we tend not to engage with it.

What tools can be used to measure readiness for change within an organisation? 

What we think about a proposed idea or change is often very different to what we are willing to say out loud. Think about when you eat out at a restaurant; how many times have you thought something could be better, but told your server that the food is amazing? This same principle of not wanting to voice a negative or contrasting opinion can hinder some change readiness assessments. 

To gain a proper understanding of the feelings of the people involved in a change, it can be helpful to create an anonymous space to share these thoughts. We have an anonymous change readiness assessment tool that’s specifically designed to assess individual receptiveness to change and predict what is likely to cause resistance, to try and ensure the data we gather is as honest as possible. 

Another useful tool could be focus groups or stakeholder meetings. If handled well, these could be useful in adding further depth to the insights gained through the assessment, whilst also being an opportunity to build trust and allow those involved to feel heard. 

How can you improve readiness for change? 

As we reflected on at the beginning, change management is all about people; they are the key to change, and so they must be the key to change management. Encouraging those involved in or impacted by a change to engage with it rather than to resist it is an integral part of creating a smooth transition and improving readiness. 

Readiness assessments can help to highlight any common areas of negativity or miscommunication that could hinder a change so that we can target our interventions where they are needed. 

Change readiness deals with both organisational culture and individual emotion, so it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly how to define or improve it when the scope is so large. However, the same principles can be applied regardless of the size of change; the opinions of the people implementing and experiencing the change are crucial, so we must utilise the most valuable resources available to us, the feelings of our teams. 

The success of our changes will be determined by how we navigate low change readiness, so we must gather opinions from all levels of our organisation and take targeted action accordingly.

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