Organisational Analysis: The critical first step for any change project

Version 2

    Happy 2016! I hope January has treated everyone well so far, and that you’re all set for a productive and successful year full of successfully managed change programs! I’m just back from a week in cold, snowy Tokyo followed by a week in hot humid Singapore where I spent time in internal meetings as well as with some of our key customers and partners in the region. Check out this amazing view of the sun setting over Mt Fuji - taken from my android phone from one of the meeting rooms in the Google Tokyo office.


    One of the topics that came up in conversation a couple of times during my meetings while I was travelling was around the ‘organisational analysis’ work-stream of Google’s change management methodology, so I thought that might make a useful topic for a blog post.

    The objective of the organisational analysis work-stream is to ensure that your project is planned in a way that will maximise the impact of your resources and ensure that your project is a success.

    Just as you wouldn't start pouring the foundations of a building when you don’t have a plan and detailed understanding of the purpose of the building, you shouldn't start developing your communications and training plans for your change project without completing an organisational analysis first.

    The purpose of doing an analysis before you start planning any change project is to make sure that you focus your resources in the best way, to give yourself the highest possible likelihood of achieving your project objectives, and to give your users the best experience through the change.

    Regardless if the change project is an organisational wide roll-out of new tools or processes, or a change that impacts only a small number of employees, the time you spend up front planning will not be wasted. According to the latest Prosci change management benchmarking report (2014), completing a proper organisational analysis and planning phase is the second most influential element to a change projects success - only topped by active and visible executive sponsorship (check out this blog post on 'The importance of engaging business leaders and people managers on change projects' for more on the top of executive sponsorship).

    As a reminder ‘organisational analysis’ is one of the four work streams in Google’s proven change management methodology (see below) and incorporates activities such as understanding the profiles of users, the impact of the change and identifying compelling use cases for each group. For a more indepth refresher of the methodology - check out my previous blog post ‘Refresher of Googles Change Management Methodology’. And for even further information, or help with running a change program, reach out to one of our Google Apps Partners who have been trained in detail on all the tips and best practices for execution.

    [Overview of Google's Change Management Methodology]

    Below is a list of the types of questions you should get answers to before drafting your communications and training plans:

    Key questions


    Which employee groups will be impacted by the change?

    All users? Just the Marketing team? Just people who work remotely? How many people are there that will be impacted? Which locations are they based in? Which languages do they speak?

    What is the ‘type’ of change?

    Is it a change in policy that people need to be made aware of? A change in process that people need to be trained on? A change in behaviour that is expected? All of the above?

    What is the level of impact of this change for each group?

    Does it fundamentally change how this group is expected to work each day? Or a small scale change that will only impact people infrequently in their work?

    What will each employee group need to do differently after the change?

    How do they work now, vs. how will they need to work in the future?

    What opportunities are there to streamline the processes of this group with Google Apps?

    How can Google Apps be used to help each user group become more efficient, more collaborative, more innovative? What challenges does each group deal with day-to-day / week-to-week? How could these be solved through the power of collaboration and mobility that Google Apps will bring?

    What are the learning objectives of each group?

    What new skills will each group need to develop? What new processes will each group need to learn how to execute?

    How can you communicate with each user group before, during and after the change?

    What channels exist for connecting with each of the user groups? How are they typically communicated with? Which regular meetings do each user groups have? Are there upcoming conferences or all-hands meetings where messages could be shared? Are there regular team meetings where messages can be shared?

    Post change - how will you share success stories and use cases with each group?

    What is the best way of educating each user group?

    Typically how are these employee groups trained? Which are the most effective ways of training each group? Is training needed for all user groups? Or will communications messages suffice? What training format is best for each user group? Is remote instructor-led training (hangouts) best for reaching remote users? Would printed handouts be the best way of reaching some users?

    Only once you have a thorough understanding of the above can you do a proper job of planning your communications and training activities.

    There are a couple of ways of uncovering the answers to these questions. The best way is simply to talk to people from each of the impacted user groups. You could have leadership identify champions from each of the groups that are assigned to work with you to share insights on the above, or you could run focus groups, or send surveys or work with the HR team.

    The point of doing all this prep work is to ensure that your change efforts are focused and have the biggest impact possible. There is no point in wasting precious time and resources delivering training to all employees on all the Google products when in reality they may not have the need or desire to use them all.

    I recently had a conversation with a customer who was talking me through their training plan - and they were planning on delivering docs, sheets and slides training to their factory staff. I asked them what use cases these people would have for those products in their day to day work in the factory - and the answer was ‘we’re not really sure - but we want them all to start ‘collaborating’. Collaboration is a great goal - but it needs to be relevant to the employees and needs to bring them value. Just because you've delivered training to someone on a product or tool - does not mean that they will start using it or working differently. Regardless of how amazing the training or the tools might be, the employees wouldn't have a need to put into practice what they learnt unless there is a compelling use case for them that is going to bring them some value. The better approach would be to speak with the factory workers or survey them, understand their day to day work and identify any use cases that would make sense for them. Then focus all communications and training very closely on those exact use cases.

    Once people have experienced that magic moment when they find that Google Apps helps them in some way to be more efficient or to connect with their customers or colleagues in a better way they will be inspired to find additional ways of improving their own workflows and processes, and so begins the journey to becoming a more self-sufficient agile organisation.

    As much as the pressure might be to do so, avoiding doing the prep work upfront isn't going to save you time or money in the long run. As with most things in life you only get one chance to make a good first impression - so make sure your employees have a good first impression of your change project. They’ll be significantly more engaged and likely embrace new ways of working if you get it right the first time, than if you execute poorly then have to create a ‘clean up plan’ to fix things at a later date, by which time your reputation and the trust you have from employees may well be damaged.

    As Benjamin Franklin once wisely said: "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail!"

    I’d love to hear if anyone has any stories (success or ‘lessons learnt’!’) that relate to this topic that they’d be willing to share.