Facilitating Organizational Change: Assessment
Once you’ve acknowledged that change is a necessity, the next step is assessment. It is important to understand the assessment stage is not about solutions, faultfinding, strategizing, or any one of a host of knee-jerk reactions so common among leaders and change agents.
Assessment is merely the act of “determining.” Specifically, determining where you are and where you want to be. The assessment is not inherently positive or negative—it just is what it is.
Not to put too fine of a point on it, but I really want to drive home the importance of allowing the assessment to simply provide the necessary data for making decisions and plans. Interpreting the data and finding context can be done later. What’s critical in this stage is identifying the starting and ending points.
Let’s see if I can illustrate what I mean with this example: A grown man measures 4 feet and 11 inches. Is he tall or short? If his desire is to be an NBA power forward, he will be vertically challenged to be sure. However, if his goal is to be a champion horse jockey, he’s probably sitting pretty. Until the context is provided, he’s merely 4 feet and 11 inches.
While context is vital, it’s imperative to leave it out of the equation at this point. Doing so helps you to view things objectively, which may prove in the end seeing as an asset what context might have marked as a liability.
In addition to identifying where you are and where you want to be, this is also the time for drafting your roadmap. The role of the roadmap is to identify the myriad possibilities of getting from Point A to Point B. If you want travel from Kansas City to Chicago there are numerous routes that can be taken; there are direct routes and there roundabout routes, scenic routes and speed routes, interstates and back roads. The route you choose will be determined by what you want to accomplish on your way to Point B. (Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination—perhaps in many respects even more so!)
The roadmap can only provide you with a macro view of your starting and ending points. It can tell you where to travel, but it cannot tell you how to travel; that is reserved for stage three: Planning.
The greatest challenge in the Assessment stage is exercising restraint and discipline in obtaining a truly comprehensive view of where you are and where you want to be.
While the temptation will be great, it is important not to be reactionary in this phase of the change process. It’s a mathematical certainty that problems will be revealed in specific areas, processes, or paradigms, which will clamor for—almost demand—spot adjustments; however, the root of the malady may actually exist elsewhere or deeper within the organization. Premature reactions usually have an adverse effect and are likely to cause further damage. Restraint and discipline are the order of the day.
Successful leaders exercise patience and wisdom and use the assessment stage to involve others, create buy-in, and act collectively. Only when all stakeholders are on board can you proceed into the next stage.