Can You Read Me?

Assessing Your People’s Capacity for Change

Can you predict how people in your organization are likely to respond to change? Imagine the following scenario:

You’ve been chosen to plan and implement a crucial change strategy for your organization. To make this change happen, you need to select exactly the right people for ten change leadership positions. Your margin of error is 10 percent: you can mismatch one person with one position-any more mistakes and the change effort will fail. If this change strategy isn’t effective, the company will be in trouble and jobs will be in jeopardy-including yours.

Given this responsibility, how confident do you feel about choosing the right people for the right positions?

An Assessment Process that Works

Matching people with positions at key transitional moments is what Charles Bishop, Ph.D., has helped some of the world’s best company’s accomplish-QuakerOats, ADT Security Services, Bank of America, and Federal Express among them. He has developed an assessment process that determines individuals’ capacity for change before the change effort is implemented.

According to Bishop, most managers lack training and experience in assessing “personal change capacity.” While they may understand an individual’s job performance and weaknesses, they don’t know how to evaluate his response to change in the past, ability to take on new and larger roles in the future, and the other factors that can predict if the individual is likely to take on leadership roles, be resilient, or at the very least, be supportive.

A Strategy for the Change Manager

Using Bishop’s “personal change capacity” model, managers learn how to:

  • get quick reads of people without in-depth interviewing, research, and unnecessary psychological profiles filled with extraneous information
  • identify the skills that will be absolutely essential for the change strategy to be implemented effectively
  • determine which positions in the organization will be pivotal from a change perspective
  • match people’s overarching strength with the skill needed
  • assess what developmental programs will be needed to prepare people for new roles
  • recognize challenges before they become problems.

Determine Your Assessment I.Q.

Write down the name of any direct report who has worked with you for at least a year and who has performed competently. Then answer the following questions about that individual.

  1. Is this individual a sponge for new knowledge and skills; would she willingly spend significant time and energy to acquire this knowledge and these skills?
  2. Could this individual inspire others to learn; is he capable of motivating other people to make sacrifices in order to learn new ways of working?
  3. Is she able to adapt easily to complexity, ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty?
  4. Will he adapt well to an expanded role that calls on him to lead, manage, work in unfamiliar ways, or requires him to change long-held beliefs and behaviors?
  5. If a change program called for the individual to work longer and harder than ever before, would she resist it?
  6. If a change program called for him to work with people, processes, or policies that were very different from those he had known, would he resist it?
  7. If you gave this person a difficult but important role in a changed company (or team or department), are you certain she wouldn’t react by following a well-known script (versus responding to the unique needs of the situation)?
  8. The change effort calls for someone to have significant expertise or ability in a given area. Do you know this person well enough to determine whether he possesses this tremendous expertise?
  9. Could you create a developmental plan to turn this person from a borderline performer in a changed environment into a solid contributor? If so, is there sufficient time for this person to develop, given the organizational need?
  10. You’re asked by your boss if this person should be given an expanded leadership role in the change effort, placed in a support position, or kept out of the process entirely. Do you feel confident you know the right answer?

If you’re like most people, you can only answer a few of these questions with any degree of certainty. Bishop’s “personal change capacity” model provides a step-by-step formula every change strategist can use to evaluate the people who could end up being most crucial to their change effort. Managers who work through Bishop’s cram course on change implementation will increase their assessment I.Q. dramatically.

Predicting Future Outcomes

No one can predict the future. Yet, if you’re the one responsible for putting a change policy in place for your company, that’s exactly what you’re being asked to do. Your job is to achieve an outcome (downsize, merge, go global, revamp a process, retool a plant, etc.) with the help of a team that’s as unfamiliar with the path leading to that goal as you.

Effective change management doesn’t require a leap of faith, however. Using Charlie Bishop’s step-by-step strategy to assess your people’s personal capacity for change-as well as your organization’s readiness for change-managers can navigate through uncharted territory with confidence.

Excerpted from:

Making Change Happen One Person at a Time:
Assessing Change Capacity within Your Organization

by Charles H. Bishop, Jr.
AMACOM, a division of American Management Association
ISBN 0-8144-0528-2, Hardcover, 260 pages, $27.95

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