As organizations realize the inevitability of change and begin to lay foundations for a change-ready culture, they are faced with the dual challenge of understanding what competencies work best for their circumstance and then building these competencies across their teams. While many enterprises reach the point of being aware of the need to change and having the willingness to invest in getting there, only a few manage to become truly change-ready and they do so by assessing and managing change-related competencies well.

Starting at the top

For an organization to be nimble and responsive in a turbulent business climate, its leadership needs to be very competent at managing change. At the executive rung, this means not just driving the mandate but also evangelizing the culture of change (many organizations neglect addressing the latter part in their leadership training).

At the team management level, managers should go beyond just embracing policies for change and become true change agents themselves – by helping increase their team members’ adaptability to change.

Getting started with competencies

Change management requires a shift in culture as well as skill, and the best way to achieve this is to create clear developmental roadmaps for both teams and individual employees. The first step in this path is to undertake an assessment of individual competencies that broadly reflect “capacity for change”, “comfort with change” and “flexibility to change”. Once individual competencies have been assessed across the employee spectrum, the probability of difficulty in adapting to change can be gauged.

Essentially, managers get to understand who in the team can change well and easily, and identify members who are not great at changing and need different degrees of help to doing so. With these detailed competency assessments at hand, managers can understand who is likely to have what kind of problems, and then look at customized interventions to increase the probability of success.

Similarly, interventions at the organizational level could include creating a stronger echelon of change sponsors, investing in developmental guidance for specific individuals, hosting manager-led training sales workshops or any targeted measure to optimize the outcome of success.

Situational competencies also matter

Just as industries differ in scope, nature and processes, so do cultures and competencies within an industry. Apple and Microsoft operate in the same industry but Apple’s work culture may be as different from Microsoft’s as that of Toyota, which operates in an entirely different industry. Conversely, Volvo’s design ethos and service culture might be closer to those of Apple than Toyota’s, which operates in the same industry.

Many companies find it especially hard to gain a good understanding of these situational competencies – competencies that are needed for managing change in a specific industry or culture. While there is no easy way to get here, including change-related competencies in the core competency models created for various roles in the company is a good place to start.

Things to look out for

Competency assessments are great at identifying strengths, weaknesses and future potential, but they are ineffective tools if not used together with active talent management and skill development.

In many organizations, change management training is often focused on executives and managers, not frontline employees. And yet, these are the people who have the most say in the eventual outcome.

If employees taking ownership is the first step, viewing themselves as prime movers of change and not its victims is the next. Few organizations track this sentiment, often losing out on change readiness over time.


Photo credit: AndYaDontStop / Foter / CC BY

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