How to Measure the Success of Change Management

A detailed guide to making organizational changes with data-driven confidence.

How to Measure the Success of Change Management

Paul Walker
September 24, 2020
In large projects, return on investment (ROI) is 6.5 times higher if an effective change management approach is in place.

That’s what MI-GSO | PCUBED’s survey of 2,500 project managers in over 120 companies showed.

While every company tries to make changes, not all companies utilize “change management”.

Change management is the process of ensuring that the change actually works because it has the intended effect and employees effectively adopt the new way of working.

Of the increasing number of companies utilizing a change management approach, fewer still properly gather data on the process to see if it’s going as intended. This is often due to the complexity and uncertainty of what to track, how, and what to do with the results.

We know how challenging it can be to measure the success of change management, but we’ll show you exactly how you can do it.

The easiest way to think about measuring change management is to view your employees as internal customers.

That is, approach internal change management with the same viewpoints as you would external customers.

As Zendesk puts it:

“... [T]he employee experience is essential to change management, when leaders are charged with supporting their teams through adjusting to new and different ways of working.

It helps to think of employees as customers. Customer experience teams evaluate the customer journey before, during, and after the experience of a product or service. Similarly, change management teams must assess the employee journey before, during, and after the implementation of a change—and both teams must define outside-in metrics to do so.”

Defining The Purpose

As with everything, you must start with defining WHY you are wanting to make this change in the first place.

Many organizational changes fail before they begin. Why? Often, because no reason has been provided for the change they want to make.

No matter how good a new process, system, or platform may be, you need a clearly defined endpoint.

There are two major reasons why you need to establish the “Why” of any change prior to beginning any rollout.

1. Give Employees A Reason To Care

No matter how much you might wish “receiving a paycheck” was enough incentive for people to care about a change, it’s not.

If a change seems like it’s being done solely to do it, with no good reason or benefit whatsoever, it will be resisted. This is especially true at companies that have a history of constantly implementing new changes one after another.

People work best when there is a purpose for what they are doing.

Everyone likes to be kept in the loop to know why things are happening, good and bad. This purpose also acts as an anchor for the other questions you need to answer.

Knowing WHY you are doing something means all your goals and objectives will point in the right direction.

It is this direction that helps everyone work together to accomplish a specific vision.

2. Set A Goal So You Can Track Your Progress

If you want to know if you’ve reached your target, you first need to set a target so you know what you’re aiming for it.

It’s impossible to know if you’ve successfully implemented “Change X” unless you know exactly what that means.

What will the company look like after Change X is in place?

How will your current processes have changed?

What will workflows look like after things have changed?

Will employee morale or productivity be affected?

It’s easy to say, “We want employees’ sales numbers to go up”. Every business wants that.

But if you aren’t tracking the right things, you will set a baseless expectation that will undoubtedly encourage bad behaviors and long-term instability solely to get sales numbers up.

Rather, you can head in the right direction and create sustainable growth if there is data to show whether your goals are being met.

By having a reason and setting a goal, the expectation for employees and the organization as a whole changes.

For example, you shouldn’t implement Change X solely because you want sales numbers up. That is likely to make employees feel less valued and even more overworked. Instead, you should implement Change X because it will increase efficiency. It may do this by reducing unnecessary workload and creating a more autonomous workflow.

How to Measure the Success of Change Management at the Organizational Level

Not all organizational changes are company-wide. However, the biggest, most difficult and impactful ones usually are.

These are the changes that apply new rules or systems to everyone across the organization.

Take the process of transitioning to self-management, for example. Individual teams and departments have been known to implement it. However, it is typically only highlighted when done at an organizational level.

What does success at the organizational level look like?

The first criteria to determine if a change is successful at organizational level is to check if all employees are following the new rule or using the new system.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all company-wide changes affect every individual to the same degree.

For example, something as simple as changing your building’s security protocol might make no difference to the majority of employees who only have to swipe a card. However, it may have a large impact on those whose roles require them to constantly go in and out with their arms full of equipment.

Likewise, a change to your parking lot might inconvenience most while benefiting the handful of people who walk to work.

The important reminder is that all employees, regardless of department, title, or tenure, are following the new rule.

If some people are exempt, it isn’t an organizational-level change.

In addition, even if everyone is following the new rule, the change can’t be considered a success if it doesn’t improve the organization (based on the goals it set before implementing the change) or if people feel miserable because of it.

Who will tell you if they’re happy or unhappy with the change?

For organizational-level changes, there are few options to measure the success aside from a company-wide survey. Other options exist, such as prompts at the entrances of the workspace or a voting method at a company-wide meeting. However, most of these make it impossible to know if everyone responded and makes it harder to get meaningful feedback.

As long as your company hasn’t overused surveys to the point that they no longer receive responses, a survey is an easy way to get vital questions out to everyone at the same time.

What metrics will help you determine if you’ve been successful?

There are many things you can track. Naturally, the best options will vary based on what exactly you are implementing and how.

For example, good metrics for measuring change could be:

  • speed of execution,
  • adherence to a timeline,
  • benefit realization and ROI,
  • performance improvements,
  • project KPIs set before the implementation.

How to Measure Operational Change

Unlike organization level changes that require tracking every single person’s engagement with the new system, operational changes tend to be easier to track.

Not only because it is often limited to a department or system, but because it’s usually much clearer what metrics need to be measured to gauge success.

What does success at the operational level look like?

This depends on exactly what is being changed and why.

An organization may be implementing a new sales strategy or different internal software. Success may be ensuring all relevant roles are using the new system/process, or that it has increased productivity or sales.

By defining what the reason is that you’re implementing these changes, it becomes easy to know what success will look like.

Operational changes are more likely to have obvious and objective success metrics, which makes this even easier.

Who will tell you if they’re happy or unhappy with the change?

For most operational changes, you will be aiming for a combination of groups to let you know if it was successful.

Even a new internal sales software can affect multiple stakeholders. For example, your employees should be able to use it more effectively to increase their own productivity, your customers should buy more quickly and/or more often because of streamlined processes, and your company’s bottom line should go up due to both of these factors.

You might want to poll employees, shareholders, and customers alike to see how the change has affected their experience.

Is the new system easier or more user friendly?

Does it allow more autonomy, simplify manual decisions, or maximize efficiency so profits are more likely to increase?

Perhaps it improves the customer experience and/or increases customer retention?

Whatever the operational change, poll all those potentially affected to see if it succeeded throughout the entire chain.

What metrics will help you determine if you’ve been successful?

Defining metrics to measure the success of change at operational level is usually pretty straightforward because they tie directly to what is being implemented.

Here are a few examples to determine the business value of the change made:

  • User login volume,
  • Transaction volume,
  • Audit and compliance findings,
  • Quality of work done in new state.

How to Measure Culture Change

Culture change, while almost always a requirement to do at an organizational level, is a whole different beast. It’s not about the work being done and getting the numbers up, it’s about the fundamental human behavior of individuals.

Not only is culture change among the most challenging of changes, but it’s also the most difficult to accurately and reliably track.

Imagine you’re trying to create a culture of transparency and honesty. You can’t be sure that people are being transparent and honest in their survey results, and if they are, you can’t be sure that it has anything to do with the culture change.

To truly identify success of culture changes, you may need several questions that target different behaviors, actions, and perceptions. Additionally, a skilled analyst can help you see where the overlap is. This can enable you to more accurately define what the company can do better to create the ideal culture.

What does a successful culture change look like in your organization?

A successful culture change is first admitting that there is no end goal. Your implementation strategy needs an end point, but you have to accept that it will never be perfect.

At no point will you be able to say “that’s good enough” because culture is something that needs to constantly be watched, improved, and evolved for the long-term health and happiness of your employees and your company.

Once you are comfortable with that, you can decide what measurements will mean that you’ve succeeded enough to transition out of the implementation phase (knowing that you’ll need to maintain a level of vigilance and support every day to ensure your culture remains healthy).

If “transparency” is an important part of your culture, you might set a goal of making 90% of company documents and process transparent by the end of the year. It’s a hefty goal that puts you miles ahead of where you were, but also has room to grow over time.

Who will tell you if they’re happy or unhappy with the change?

Your employees. All of them. Listen to them.

I cannot stress this enough: it is vital for you to gather feedback from your employees and make real, tangible changes based on the results.

No matter how inclusive, transparent, supportive, or carefree you want your organization to be, if the vast majority of your employees don’t feel that way, then your culture isn’t what you hope it is.

Culture can’t simply be defined by rules in the employee handbook, training during onboarding, or quotes on walls. No matter how good your company’s PR is, all that matters is what the employees within actually feel.

Whether it’s through surveys, focus groups, or any other medium, you need to listen to what the results say.

Painful, long-term problems will be created for the entire organization if employees are dissatisfied with the culture.

Culture issues are extremely difficult to come back from. Ask them what is working, what isn’t, and what you can do better. Then do it.

What metrics will help you determine if you’ve been successful?

There is a plethora of metrics you could track to see how a culture initiative is going.

Some of these will pertain directly to what changes you are trying to make, while others may focus on the preexisting parts of your company culture you don’t want to lose during the process.

Here are some examples of what you can track while making culture-focused changes:

  • trust in leadership,
  • sense of job security,
  • employees feel valued,
  • freedom to make mistakes,
  • room for personal development,
  • employees say leadership walks the walk.

Remember you’re not doing this to get a feature in the latest Deloite edition of “best places to work”.

If you’re serious about cultural change, there’s no point influencing the answers. On the contrary, you want to check that questions and proposed answers are as unbiased as possible.

You also want to go beyond an annual survey and look for tools that can help you measure real-time sentiment throughout the year.

Tools to Measure the Success of Change Management

Prosci has valuable eLearning Modules and Resources/Research to help you with your change management initiatives.

If you’re looking to transition to Teal, Holaspirit offers a collection of articles on “going teal” and a software to support the process.

Various online tools such as Google Forms, Typeform, and Qualtrics make surveys simple and efficient.

Nowadays, nearly every meeting, class, and event takes place virtually. That’s where Riff comes in as a unique and promising solution. Riff provides a way to measure and track change management even over virtual mediums.

Prosci Change Scorecard

Another great tool to use to measure the success of change management is the Prosci Change Scorecard.

Conclusion

Change management is of the utmost importance for any organization wishing to make sustainable, long-term improvements at any level.

While staying optimistic is great, it’s also necessary to base your next-steps on factual data.

In order to know if your plan is succeeding, you need to be able to:

  • measure your change management process to see what’s working and what’s not,
  • gather data early and often and adjust your plan in data-driven directions the entire time, and
  • have a flexible approach to solving your problems with only your end goal in mind.

Need a bit of help making your organization’s next big change a little easier to manage?

Check out our partners. They’re the best at what they do.

How to Measure the Success of Change Management

Paul Walker
September 24, 2020
In large projects, return on investment (ROI) is 6.5 times higher if an effective change management approach is in place.

That’s what MI-GSO | PCUBED’s survey of 2,500 project managers in over 120 companies showed.

While every company tries to make changes, not all companies utilize “change management”.

Change management is the process of ensuring that the change actually works because it has the intended effect and employees effectively adopt the new way of working.

Of the increasing number of companies utilizing a change management approach, fewer still properly gather data on the process to see if it’s going as intended. This is often due to the complexity and uncertainty of what to track, how, and what to do with the results.

We know how challenging it can be to measure the success of change management, but we’ll show you exactly how you can do it.

The easiest way to think about measuring change management is to view your employees as internal customers.

That is, approach internal change management with the same viewpoints as you would external customers.

As Zendesk puts it:

“... [T]he employee experience is essential to change management, when leaders are charged with supporting their teams through adjusting to new and different ways of working.

It helps to think of employees as customers. Customer experience teams evaluate the customer journey before, during, and after the experience of a product or service. Similarly, change management teams must assess the employee journey before, during, and after the implementation of a change—and both teams must define outside-in metrics to do so.”

Defining The Purpose

As with everything, you must start with defining WHY you are wanting to make this change in the first place.

Many organizational changes fail before they begin. Why? Often, because no reason has been provided for the change they want to make.

No matter how good a new process, system, or platform may be, you need a clearly defined endpoint.

There are two major reasons why you need to establish the “Why” of any change prior to beginning any rollout.

1. Give Employees A Reason To Care

No matter how much you might wish “receiving a paycheck” was enough incentive for people to care about a change, it’s not.

If a change seems like it’s being done solely to do it, with no good reason or benefit whatsoever, it will be resisted. This is especially true at companies that have a history of constantly implementing new changes one after another.

People work best when there is a purpose for what they are doing.

Everyone likes to be kept in the loop to know why things are happening, good and bad. This purpose also acts as an anchor for the other questions you need to answer.

Knowing WHY you are doing something means all your goals and objectives will point in the right direction.

It is this direction that helps everyone work together to accomplish a specific vision.

2. Set A Goal So You Can Track Your Progress

If you want to know if you’ve reached your target, you first need to set a target so you know what you’re aiming for it.

It’s impossible to know if you’ve successfully implemented “Change X” unless you know exactly what that means.

What will the company look like after Change X is in place?

How will your current processes have changed?

What will workflows look like after things have changed?

Will employee morale or productivity be affected?

It’s easy to say, “We want employees’ sales numbers to go up”. Every business wants that.

But if you aren’t tracking the right things, you will set a baseless expectation that will undoubtedly encourage bad behaviors and long-term instability solely to get sales numbers up.

Rather, you can head in the right direction and create sustainable growth if there is data to show whether your goals are being met.

By having a reason and setting a goal, the expectation for employees and the organization as a whole changes.

For example, you shouldn’t implement Change X solely because you want sales numbers up. That is likely to make employees feel less valued and even more overworked. Instead, you should implement Change X because it will increase efficiency. It may do this by reducing unnecessary workload and creating a more autonomous workflow.

How to Measure the Success of Change Management at the Organizational Level

Not all organizational changes are company-wide. However, the biggest, most difficult and impactful ones usually are.

These are the changes that apply new rules or systems to everyone across the organization.

Take the process of transitioning to self-management, for example. Individual teams and departments have been known to implement it. However, it is typically only highlighted when done at an organizational level.

What does success at the organizational level look like?

The first criteria to determine if a change is successful at organizational level is to check if all employees are following the new rule or using the new system.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all company-wide changes affect every individual to the same degree.

For example, something as simple as changing your building’s security protocol might make no difference to the majority of employees who only have to swipe a card. However, it may have a large impact on those whose roles require them to constantly go in and out with their arms full of equipment.

Likewise, a change to your parking lot might inconvenience most while benefiting the handful of people who walk to work.

The important reminder is that all employees, regardless of department, title, or tenure, are following the new rule.

If some people are exempt, it isn’t an organizational-level change.

In addition, even if everyone is following the new rule, the change can’t be considered a success if it doesn’t improve the organization (based on the goals it set before implementing the change) or if people feel miserable because of it.

Who will tell you if they’re happy or unhappy with the change?

For organizational-level changes, there are few options to measure the success aside from a company-wide survey. Other options exist, such as prompts at the entrances of the workspace or a voting method at a company-wide meeting. However, most of these make it impossible to know if everyone responded and makes it harder to get meaningful feedback.

As long as your company hasn’t overused surveys to the point that they no longer receive responses, a survey is an easy way to get vital questions out to everyone at the same time.

What metrics will help you determine if you’ve been successful?

There are many things you can track. Naturally, the best options will vary based on what exactly you are implementing and how.

For example, good metrics for measuring change could be:

  • speed of execution,
  • adherence to a timeline,
  • benefit realization and ROI,
  • performance improvements,
  • project KPIs set before the implementation.

How to Measure Operational Change

Unlike organization level changes that require tracking every single person’s engagement with the new system, operational changes tend to be easier to track.

Not only because it is often limited to a department or system, but because it’s usually much clearer what metrics need to be measured to gauge success.

What does success at the operational level look like?

This depends on exactly what is being changed and why.

An organization may be implementing a new sales strategy or different internal software. Success may be ensuring all relevant roles are using the new system/process, or that it has increased productivity or sales.

By defining what the reason is that you’re implementing these changes, it becomes easy to know what success will look like.

Operational changes are more likely to have obvious and objective success metrics, which makes this even easier.

Who will tell you if they’re happy or unhappy with the change?

For most operational changes, you will be aiming for a combination of groups to let you know if it was successful.

Even a new internal sales software can affect multiple stakeholders. For example, your employees should be able to use it more effectively to increase their own productivity, your customers should buy more quickly and/or more often because of streamlined processes, and your company’s bottom line should go up due to both of these factors.

You might want to poll employees, shareholders, and customers alike to see how the change has affected their experience.

Is the new system easier or more user friendly?

Does it allow more autonomy, simplify manual decisions, or maximize efficiency so profits are more likely to increase?

Perhaps it improves the customer experience and/or increases customer retention?

Whatever the operational change, poll all those potentially affected to see if it succeeded throughout the entire chain.

What metrics will help you determine if you’ve been successful?

Defining metrics to measure the success of change at operational level is usually pretty straightforward because they tie directly to what is being implemented.

Here are a few examples to determine the business value of the change made:

  • User login volume,
  • Transaction volume,
  • Audit and compliance findings,
  • Quality of work done in new state.

How to Measure Culture Change

Culture change, while almost always a requirement to do at an organizational level, is a whole different beast. It’s not about the work being done and getting the numbers up, it’s about the fundamental human behavior of individuals.

Not only is culture change among the most challenging of changes, but it’s also the most difficult to accurately and reliably track.

Imagine you’re trying to create a culture of transparency and honesty. You can’t be sure that people are being transparent and honest in their survey results, and if they are, you can’t be sure that it has anything to do with the culture change.

To truly identify success of culture changes, you may need several questions that target different behaviors, actions, and perceptions. Additionally, a skilled analyst can help you see where the overlap is. This can enable you to more accurately define what the company can do better to create the ideal culture.

What does a successful culture change look like in your organization?

A successful culture change is first admitting that there is no end goal. Your implementation strategy needs an end point, but you have to accept that it will never be perfect.

At no point will you be able to say “that’s good enough” because culture is something that needs to constantly be watched, improved, and evolved for the long-term health and happiness of your employees and your company.

Once you are comfortable with that, you can decide what measurements will mean that you’ve succeeded enough to transition out of the implementation phase (knowing that you’ll need to maintain a level of vigilance and support every day to ensure your culture remains healthy).

If “transparency” is an important part of your culture, you might set a goal of making 90% of company documents and process transparent by the end of the year. It’s a hefty goal that puts you miles ahead of where you were, but also has room to grow over time.

Who will tell you if they’re happy or unhappy with the change?

Your employees. All of them. Listen to them.

I cannot stress this enough: it is vital for you to gather feedback from your employees and make real, tangible changes based on the results.

No matter how inclusive, transparent, supportive, or carefree you want your organization to be, if the vast majority of your employees don’t feel that way, then your culture isn’t what you hope it is.

Culture can’t simply be defined by rules in the employee handbook, training during onboarding, or quotes on walls. No matter how good your company’s PR is, all that matters is what the employees within actually feel.

Whether it’s through surveys, focus groups, or any other medium, you need to listen to what the results say.

Painful, long-term problems will be created for the entire organization if employees are dissatisfied with the culture.

Culture issues are extremely difficult to come back from. Ask them what is working, what isn’t, and what you can do better. Then do it.

What metrics will help you determine if you’ve been successful?

There is a plethora of metrics you could track to see how a culture initiative is going.

Some of these will pertain directly to what changes you are trying to make, while others may focus on the preexisting parts of your company culture you don’t want to lose during the process.

Here are some examples of what you can track while making culture-focused changes:

  • trust in leadership,
  • sense of job security,
  • employees feel valued,
  • freedom to make mistakes,
  • room for personal development,
  • employees say leadership walks the walk.

Remember you’re not doing this to get a feature in the latest Deloite edition of “best places to work”.

If you’re serious about cultural change, there’s no point influencing the answers. On the contrary, you want to check that questions and proposed answers are as unbiased as possible.

You also want to go beyond an annual survey and look for tools that can help you measure real-time sentiment throughout the year.

Tools to Measure the Success of Change Management

Prosci has valuable eLearning Modules and Resources/Research to help you with your change management initiatives.

If you’re looking to transition to Teal, Holaspirit offers a collection of articles on “going teal” and a software to support the process.

Various online tools such as Google Forms, Typeform, and Qualtrics make surveys simple and efficient.

Nowadays, nearly every meeting, class, and event takes place virtually. That’s where Riff comes in as a unique and promising solution. Riff provides a way to measure and track change management even over virtual mediums.

Prosci Change Scorecard

Another great tool to use to measure the success of change management is the Prosci Change Scorecard.

Conclusion

Change management is of the utmost importance for any organization wishing to make sustainable, long-term improvements at any level.

While staying optimistic is great, it’s also necessary to base your next-steps on factual data.

In order to know if your plan is succeeding, you need to be able to:

  • measure your change management process to see what’s working and what’s not,
  • gather data early and often and adjust your plan in data-driven directions the entire time, and
  • have a flexible approach to solving your problems with only your end goal in mind.

Need a bit of help making your organization’s next big change a little easier to manage?

Check out our partners. They’re the best at what they do.

metrics
how-to
goal setting
implementation
change
transformation
WRITTEN BY

Paul Walker

Self-Management Specialist at Octopy

Paul previously implemented Holacracy and Teal concepts at Zappos and now works at Octopy with the mission of creating a more human-focused future of work