You’re Using the Wrong Ruler. How to Truly Measure Change

Change leaders are always looking for a new ruler. “How do we best measure change?” It remains one of the most popular questions in the domain of change management.

The answer is simple: Measure the impact on the business and work backwards.

“Change work” never stands on its own. It’s always focused on enabling the achievement of an objective that benefits the organization and its customers. 

Therefore, change work – and the evaluation of such – is always driven by the goals of the program it is supporting. And any approved program should be focused on producing outcomes that benefit the business.

If the program is to increase customer satisfaction during account openings, then that is the goal for the change work as well. Decreasing costs are intended to increase sales or ensure a competitive position.

To reach those goals, programs are typically focused on tangible changes that enable the business outcomes, such as faster procedures that meet customer needs quickly, or reducing the time to produce widgets by implementing new technology.

You have a key role to play in establishing the objectives of any program at the outset, applying SMART standards wherever possible. It’s amazing how many programs are approved with vague or ‘unmeasurable’ outcomes. There is no way to gauge success and that makes it hard to convince your stakeholders that the change is necessary.

In addition, it can be difficult to obtain data for the desired measures, so starting with measures in mind enables the planning required to obtain data, set baselines and track changes.

With measures related to the end goal in place, now you can add the typical indicators of change:

  • Adoption levels: Are they using it? Not a direct business benefit, but an important indicator.
  • Readiness: Are they feeling positive about the change? Attitudes predict behavioral change.
  • Training uptake: Did they learn what they needed? How many support calls are coming in? No action without new knowledge and skills. 

There is no magic answer to how to measure change, but there is a simple one. Align with the business objectives and measure the elements which enable success. As Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.”

Thoughtfully yours,
Jeff Skipper

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