Transformational Change Readiness: A Behavioral Approach

Posted by Paula Alsher on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 @ 09:32 AM

Transformational change is by definition, highly disruptive.  It involves significant changes to processes, structure, and technology-- and ultimately produces changes in how people do their jobs on a daily basis. Change Agents who are assigned to implement transformational change are usually charged with building readiness.  Often, though, there is no comprehensive change strategy-- it's a shotgun approach mostly focused on training end users.  Behavioral Approach to Change Management

But we know that readiness involves much more than training!  Organizational readiness, as defined in the AIM change management methodology, includes four key elements:

  • The capacity of Sponsors at all levels of the organization to lead the change
  • The readiness of Targets
  • An awareness of how this change fits with the culture
  • And the capacity of Change Agents, both in numbers and in skills, traits and personal characteristics

To truly build readiness, you have to know what the future state looks like from a behavioral perspective.  If you are going to invest Change Agent resources in a true readiness effort, how will you know when you actually have achieved that readiness?

One strategy that can be highly effective is to develop a behavioral definition that answers the question, "What would readiness look like?"  If you don't have a crystal clear idea of what readiness is, how will you know it when you see it?  If you don't have this definition, how will impacted people know what they are supposed to do?

As Claire McCarthy Garets, a long-time user of the AIM methodology in two large healthcare organizations, and currently CEO of the Change Gang, points out, "It's not always easy to write these behavioral definitions, and you will get push-back to add flowery language and vague terms that don't mean anything-- but you need to resist these efforts and be very clear."

Claire used the behavioral definition approach, founded on the principles of AIM, to develop readiness for two large Epic electronic medical records implementations.  A very important component of the strategy was that these definitions were developed for end users, executives, and even board members.  As Claire notes, "It turns out everyone wants to know what they are supposed to do!"

While the definitions are clear and simple, there were multiple layers of detail behind them that could be used by affected roles and areas who contributed to building readiness. In addition, Claire developed a Readiness Matrix that could be used by the change management team to identify who was responsible for what. The change management team orchestrated the process to develop and socialize the readiness definitions, and then aligned and integrated all the contributors so the work could get done.


Here are a few examples of what a "Ready User" looks like:

  • Uses the new processes/workflows and has job aids readily available
  • Speaks positively about the change to staff and patients

A major benefit of taking this approach is that it accelerates the transformational change.  It drives collaboration, alignment, and accountability!  As Claire explains, "If you can engage the organization to have readiness definitions at multiple levels, you are enhancing the Sponsorship cascade."  Sponsors know what they need to specifically do to express, model and reinforce their personal commitment to the transformation.

This approach to building behavioral readiness definitions can be used for any type of implementation.  You may, in fact, have multiple readiness definitions-- one set for go-live, and one set for post go-live.

Providing a clear path for the future helps to make clarity out of the chaos that is so common in transformational change.  It translates a vision of the future state into terms that relate directly to peoples' jobs.  And for Change Agents, and change management in general, it provides a very specific picture of what change management can contribute to driving transformational change.

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Topics: Transformational Change, Change Readiness