While strategizing how to set the stage for the next change often comes at the end of an initiative, we gain by going above and beyond the traditional lessons learned exercise. By focusing on building capacity from the start we are already strengthening our change muscle.
We can learn from this capacity-building, and from our ongoing dialogue with stakeholders, to evaluate and build on our change. This allows us to elevate our organization’s capacity to adapt, lead change and be successful over the medium- and long- terms. How we lead this change sets the bar for the next ones.
We can start by revisiting Section 4: Capacity, readiness and impact (some relevant sections may be: Examine organizational change maturity versus readiness, Change saturation, Assess how ready we are organizationally and individually to implement the change, Assess leadership capacity for change).
A key element of section 4 is assessing our organizational change maturity. Organizational change maturity helps us understand how ready and capable our organization is for change by considering factors such as leadership, technology, capacity, and workplace culture.
There are ongoing activities that can be done to reinforce our long-term change capability and capacity and we will have been doing a number of these throughout our change process.
We can assess our capacity/capability through an organizational maturity assessment. For more on how to conduct an organizational change maturity assessment, see Section 4: Capacity, readiness and impact / Organizational change maturity / How can we better understand our organizational change maturity.
By following a path to build change capacity in our organization we will be well-placed to lead other changes as they emerge. If we can proactively improve our results in this change effort using a variety approaches, then we can do so for all our changes in the years to come.
How can we continue to build change capacity?
It is often helpful to look back and see what worked well. Among other things, we can examine what raised energy, helped someone learn something new, or changed someone’s perspective. For example, if our governance structure was effective, including top-down, horizontal and diagonal connections, we can look at how this was accomplished, and how the legacy of this work could continue to help break down silos and increase collaboration. Experience in our current change will help us better lead the next ones.
There are a number of themes related to change capacity that we may want to assess throughout and after the implementation of our change. For example, we could think about:
- Our approach and tools
- Was the change approached methodically and systematically? How?
- Which approaches and tools were successful and why?
- Which approaches and tools would we use differently and why?
- The effectiveness of our change governance
- In what ways did it lead to better collaboration and outcomes?
- Were there areas that overlapped or caused confusion? How could we bring more clarity next time around?
- How did we identify them?
- How did we navigate these interdependencies? Did we take a collaborative approach? What did we learn about the complexity of the organization?
- The trend in our levels of support over time
- How did our levels of support vary throughout the process?
- What could be done differently to strengthen support next time?
- How roles/responsibilities were defined for our initiative
- Were they clear?
- How did they contribute to a successful outcome?
- Which skills/competencies among the team were most effective
- Were they surprising? Should we build on these through formal training?
- Were there individuals or groups who showed great change skills? What were these skills?
- How are we retaining this talent and enthusiasm for change?
- Vision and conditions of success
- What is the degree to which we met our conditions for success?
- Did we achieve our vision and is it living up to expectations? What were the factors that led us to achieve our vision? What ways could we have done this differently?
- How were we building capacity along the way?
- How will we share our lessons observed with other groups?
- How will we use what we learned for our next change (e.g., including a “lessons applied” section in our next change plan)?
- Change leadership and change management
- How did we follow best practices in change leadership?
- How did we follow best practices in change management?
- What did we learn from following these practices? What could we improve on for next time?
Evaluating the change and building our capacity are crucial components in supporting the development of our capability to strategically lead change across our organization. If we can successfully incorporate the lessons we have observed into the next change, and do so for each change moving forward, we can initiate a positive feedback loop of learning and improvement that will transform our organization into one that sees consistent positive outcomes from change initiatives.
*Note: We can begin this process of identifying our lessons observed among the change team or senior change leadership team. Yet, for truly representative results we can validate our lessons observed with key stakeholders.
By using the approaches and tools identified in this Framework, and building on our experience with them for the next change, we have a better chance of success than if we followed an ad hoc approach or one single methodology.
Yet, these approaches are just one part of the puzzle, albeit a major one. Ultimately, our goal is to help shift mindsets and behaviour. For our best chances of success for that, we need to get ourselves and others into a change leadership mindset focused on collaboratively generating dialogue, building trust, listening to feedback, and making adjustments. By doing so we’ll be better prepared to navigate the muddy, winding waters of change.