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11.3 Assessing Your Organizational Capacity for Change

If you are now convinced that organizational capacity for change is an important capability that you want to develop in your organization, this final section contains some ideas for assessing your organization’s capacity. There are two ways that your organization’s capacity for change can be assessed. First, you can do this qualitatively by interviewing individuals at various levels of the organization and attempting to characterize it along these eight dimensions in narrative format using anecdotes and stories to illustrate where the organization stands. Second, you can do this quantitatively by administering an anonymous survey to the entire organization and aggregating the numerical results.

Chapter 12 "Appendix A: OCC Survey Instrument" contains a reliable and valid instrument that you can use to quantitatively assess your organization’s change capacity.This survey instrument can also be used as an interview protocol for qualitative interviews. This instrument can be administered online or via paper and pencil to any strategic business unit within your organization.Sometimes organizations are so large, and comprise so many organizational units, that it does not make sense to assess capacity for change for the entire organization. Hence, meaningful assessments are made at the strategic business unit level. A strategic business unit is an organizational subunit with profit and loss responsibility, or a cost center within an organization. For smaller, single-business organizations, the strategic business unit is the entire organization. It is best if you administer the survey to your entire organization since a census provides the clearest picture of where the overall organization stands. However, sometimes a census is just not feasible. In these cases, it is necessary that a random sampling approach be taken. Chapter 13 "Appendix B: 8 Dimensions and Factor Loadings for OCC" illustrates that these items are reliable as shown through the relatively high factor loadings across the eight dimensions derived from a statistical factor analysis. For further reading about the reliability and validity of this instrument, please consider reading the publication that covers this issue.Judge and Douglas (2009). In previous research using this instrument, I have discovered that it is important to sample sufficient numbers of senior executives, middle managers, and frontline employees within the organization. The reason for this is that, in general, top management often has the most optimistic view of the organization’s capacity for change, and frontline workers have the most pessimistic viewpoint. Interestingly, the middle managers’ viewpoint is typically in between these two assessments, and the gap between the midmanagement and senior-level perspective tells you how much work is required to enhance the change capability. Therefore, it is important to collect a representative sample of individual perceptions from the top, middle, and bottom of the organizational hierarchy.

Once you have collected the data from tops, middles, and frontline workers, it is useful to aggregate that data by the three levels and for the overall organization. If you are graphically minded, it can be helpful to construct a radar chart depicting the eight dimensions of organizational capacity for change by adding up the mean score for the four items in each dimension. Since a minimum score would be 4 across the four items and a maximum score would be 40, your organizational score will be somewhere between these two extremes. As can be seen in Chapter 14 "Appendix C: OCC Benchmarking", descriptive statistics are provided for each of the eight dimensions for the over 200 strategic business units that have been previously assessed using the instrument in Chapter 12 "Appendix A: OCC Survey Instrument". Notably, Communication Systems is often the lowest evaluated dimension of the eight, and Trustworthy Leadership is typically the highest evaluated dimension. This suggests that improving your communication before, during, and after change initiatives offers the biggest opportunity for improvement. In addition, it is interesting to point out that the coefficient of variation is highest for systems thinking and communication systems, which suggests that strategic business units vary the most on these two dimensions.

Chapter 15 "Appendix D: OCC Benchmarking" contains the mean values across the three hierarchical subgroups of employees required to assess organizational capacity for change. As might be expected, senior executives consistently rate the organizational capacity for change the highest, and frontline workers consistently rate it the lowest. In all cases except for accountable culture, middle managers rate the dimensions of organizational capacity for change in between these two subgroups. Overall, this benchmark data can be used to compare your organization to a wide variety of organizations operating in a wide variety of industries throughout the world.

A final worthwhile assessmentThe tracking of an organization’s capacity for change over time. is to track your organizational capacity for change over time. This can be done by administering the instrument at one point in time, and collecting data at a later point in time. Some organizational leaders choose to do this at regular intervals (e.g., every year, every quarter); other organizational leaders choose to do this after a major intervention event (e.g., following a postacquisition integration program or a major training program). Armed with longitudinal data, you get a perspective as to whether your organization is improving in its overall capacity for change.