Assessing Change Readiness: Steps for a Successful Transition

Assessing Change Readiness is crucial for successful organizational transformation. But what is Change Readiness and what are steps to evaluate it and avoid pitfalls in change management?

You wouldn’t start a car journey before checking your fuel gauge. In the same way, beginning any major organizational transformation, such as entering a new market, undergoing a merger or transferring to a new leadership, should be preceded by a change readiness assessment. Transforming a company involves many complex moving parts, from operational processes to culture and leadership, and is notoriously difficult – only 30% of change management processes actually succeed. Conducting a change readiness assessment ensures you’re aware of your strengths and limitations, so your transformation process has every possible chance of being one of the success stories. 

What is Change Readiness?

What exactly do we mean by ‘change readiness’? Predictably enough, it’s about being ready for an upcoming change. But while the name is straightforward, whether your organization is ready or not isn’t a simple yes or no question. 

Change readiness means having the will, the skill and the strategy to make transformation successful. It comprises many parts, large and small, from the frontline workers being trained in new processes, to the leadership team’s ability to motivate, to the effectiveness of internal comms, to the overall health of the company culture. 


“Your success in life isn't based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers and business.”

-----   Mark Sanborn  -----

That’s where change management comes in. To be ready for change, employees and leadership need to be aligned on what the change process involves. People must be receptive to the transformation and willing to make it happen, and they need the right resources and a clear plan for getting it done.

Did you know?


Change-ready companies might have other positive characteristics too.

“Staff in organizations that are ready for change are more likely to exert greater effort, persist in the face of obstacles, and display cooperative behavior,” 

Source: US Children’s Bureau’s Quality Improvement Center For Workforce Development.

The Importance of Change Readiness Assessment

Determining your organization’s ability to manage change involves analyzing many different aspects of the business, covering areas like leadership, culture and internal communications. 

Any one of these components could present a barrier to successful transformation, which is why it’s important to take stock of your current capabilities with a change readiness assessment. Doing so will give you a strong foundation for change management. 

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Change readiness assessment can identify what needs to be done to be transformation-ready, and help you understand where the risks lie so that you can minimize them as much as possible before embarking on change. It may even result in a decision to postpone or adapt your plans until you’re in a stronger position.  

It’s also worth noting that major transformation isn’t always planned. Change can come in the form of a crisis, so it can be valuable to have a change readiness assessment in place so you understand your capabilities even when no big events are expected. 

Risks of Neglecting Change Readiness

Changing something as complex as a company isn’t an easy ask, which is why change management processes have emerged to help steer organizations towards success. Even so, a good outcome is far from being guaranteed.


“...research shows that most change initiatives fail to get their intended outcomes and may even limit an organization’s potential and its people. The effects of not managing change effectively can be devastating and long lasting.”

-----  The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development  --

In fact, a startling 70% of change management projects fail. Without a change readiness assessment and a robust change management process, you run the risk of undergoing transformation under-prepared. This can lead to wasted resources, poor employee experience, high costs that outweigh any benefits of the change, and even a failure to make the change happen. 

In the worst case scenario, it can even spell the end of your business. For example Blockbuster Video, once a household name, found itself unable to keep up with the industry changes that followed the mainstreaming of the internet in the early 2000s. The company went bankrupt in 2010 and today has just one remaining retail location. 

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How to Assess Change Readiness

Assessing change readiness should be systematic, following a step-by-step approach to make sure everything is covered and the knowledge you gather can be captured and distributed effectively. 

Step 1: Evaluating Current Organizational Culture

Your organization’s culture is deeply connected to its values, which inform how business is carried out and how people behave at work. In assessing readiness for change, you need to gauge how closely the current culture lines up with the proposed transformation. 

For example, does your culture value innovation, or does it emphasize tradition? How competitive is the culture? Do people share ideas freely, and do they feel psychologically safe when doing so?  


It’s important to understand the culture as a whole, but also to home in on areas that are especially relevant to the developments at hand. If the change is externally imposed, for example, there may be less scope for innovation to play a part, whereas adapting systems and policies becomes crucial, as noted in the Project Management Institute’s whitepaper on change readiness. For this step, define the scope of your analysis carefully to make sure you stay close to the relevant aspects of culture. 


Step 2: Employee Engagement and Feedback

Employee feedback can be a treasure trove of insights during a change readiness assessment. For example, it can…

  • help reveal your people’s receptiveness to potential change, and the kinds of objections they might raise
  • capture ideas that are valuable for future planning, should your change management process go ahead
  • assess current levels of employee engagement, and measure the drivers of engagement, some of which might be impacted by new ways of working
  • identify skills gaps that represent a risk and training opportunities that could strengthen change readiness
  • reflect employee satisfaction with tools, resources and work environment, indicating how prepared they are to manage change


Step 3: Resource and Capacity Analysis

Few businesses have the option of suspending their day-to-day operations in order to carry out a major transformation. Business as usual needs to continue, which means the capacity available to devote to the change process might be limited. 

When gauging your resources and capacity, you also need to consider the knowledge capital and training level among your current employees, and whether their existing skills can be adapted to new ways of working, new systems or tools. 

3.2 ImageFinancial resources fall under this category too. That might mean assessing the liquidity available for extra purchasing and procurement, or analyzing where costs can be saved or existing budgets redistributed to support the transformation process.   

Assessing Organizational Readiness for Change

To understand your organizational readiness for change, you need a holistic view of your company. So it makes sense to do your assessment bottom up, starting with discrete parts of the business such as departments or functions, and then summarizing what you’ve learned to build up the bigger picture of overall organizational readiness for change. 

Writing in the academic journal Implementation Science, Bryan J. Weiner emphasizes the human side of things, defining organizational readiness for change as “a shared psychological state in which organizational members feel committed to implementing an organizational change and confident in their collective abilities to do so.”

This illustrates how assessing organizational readiness for change involves building a big picture based on cumulative knowledge. For that picture to be rosy, intention and confidence must be present at each level of the business. 

Indicators of Readiness for Change

Hallmarks of change readiness can be divided into two categories – the actions and attitude of leadership, and the potential for processes to adapt. 

Leadership Support and Commitment
Leaders act as role models for employees, which makes them powerful agents of change. When leadership is wholeheartedly committed to the transformation process and demonstrates excitement and enthusiasm for change, there is more chance employees will follow suit. A leader with a love of innovation and disruption can contribute to change readiness by modeling it through their words and actions.

Leaders can also play an important role in communication. As champions of a proposed transformation, they can help employees understand the rationale and the benefits a change will bring. A leader with the ability to communicate big ideas effectively can help push changes through. Even more importantly, their ability to listen and respond will help build trust and adaptability during the transformation process.   

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Listening leaders make actively listening to employee voices a foundational part of their leadership strategy. Listening leaders are continually open to new ideas, and they maintain a clear view of what is happening in their companies and wider industry at all times. For these reasons, being a listening leader is an automatic head start in change readiness assessment. And because they are tuned in to what is happening both inside and outside the company, listening leaders are always ready to adapt and are powerful agents of change when transformation is required. 

Flexibility and Adaptability of Organizational Processes

Changes frequently involve an organization’s processes – for example, moving from a legacy customer relationship platform to one that incorporates AI assistance for employees. For processes to be adaptable, they need to be clearly defined and understood by employees, and to be consistent across the organization, so that every transformation begins from a clear baseline. They should also have adaptability designed into them so that they can be easily modified, rather than needing to be rebuilt from scratch. 

Leveraging Idea Management Software in Change Readiness

Understanding employee thoughts, perspectives and attitudes is critical to maintaining employee engagement, which in turn is a prerequisite for successful change. When employees are asked to voice their thoughts and feelings, a dialogue is opened between leadership and workforce. Employees who feel listened to and see their suggestions being taken on board gain a greater sense of ownership within the business, which can be a powerful catalyst for engagement. 

As well as fostering engagement, employee listening and feedback also highlights where change may be needed. It can indicate where passion, concern or enthusiasm lies, helping management refine its change management strategy and make it more effective. Idea management software like Sideways 6 helps you share and explore employee feedback on a collaborative and continuous basis. 

Because Sideways 6 works through the channels employees are already using, such as Teams and Interact Intranet, it’s easy to contribute when ideas arise, and it offers a natural opportunity for communication. 


Change readiness assessment isn’t just an important first step for change management. It’s a way to take the pulse of your organization’s versatility and adaptability, and an opportunity to gauge employee experience and the drivers of engagement. It can help you reassess your processes and stress-test them for adaptability. Most importantly, change readiness assessment provides a diagnosis of your risks and opportunities, highlighting how you can strengthen your organization for the future. 

Our Idea Management Software Can Take Your Change Readiness Assessment to The Next Level

If you’re considering a change readiness assessment, get in touch to find out how Sideways 6 can help you collect and connect your employees’ insights.


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