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Using Measures to Get the Most out of Your Change Initiative

Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Change Management Strategy (24-slide PowerPoint presentation). Seventy percent of change programs fail, according to the April 2001 Harvard Business Review article, "Cracking the Code of Change". According to Bain & Company, businesses that implement fast, focused, and simultaneous change programs can create enormous and long-lasting shareholder [read more]

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There are plenty of statistics indicating that a high number of change initiatives fail. Any organization can turn those statistics on their head by doing one thing; USING their measures. Not just creating them; using them. When you use measures the right way, you reinforce your change message through multiple avenues and in several ways, moving people through their change journey quicker and on to successful adoption of the change.

Generally speaking, there are two problems we encounter when working with measures; creating the measure and then using what we created.

Creating measures

You hear it a lot, “What gets measured gets done.” And most people agree that measuring a change is a good idea. If you search on line for ideas or recommendations on creating measures, you will find ample resources. If you are not careful, you will get lost in all the methods and terminology surrounding the basic activity of creating a meaningful measure. In some ways, we have made building a measure more complicated than it needs to be.

Because of the various terms used to describe measuring something, in this paper I am using the term “measures” in place of what in your organization may be called measures, or metrics, or indicators (leading and lagging), Performance Indicators, Key Performance Indicators, Critical Performance indicators, scorecards, dashboards, etc.

I won’t add to the millions of hits on line on how to create a measure of success. But de-clutter the activity of creating measures. Put the terminology aside and remember to keep it simple. Select measures that are obtainable, don’t require a huge time investment to capture, and fit your change and your organization. In many cases, some of the measures you need already exist in the organization, so don’t reinvent the wheel.

Using measures

Once you have your measures in hand, you encounter the next challenge; where to use them. So many times I have seen measures created with no place to go. They are not reviewed in leadership team meetings. They may get seconds of attention at a town hall. They fail to make it on internal social media platforms, they are not pulled out during Gemba walks, etc. What a lost opportunity.

It is understandable because measuring our work is uncomfortable and makes us vulnerable. There is uncertainty on what the measures will show. There is fear of failure, fear of losing status among peers and leaders, fear of getting more work if the measure goes the wrong way. It is much safer to hide the data and show it only if it looks good.

Creating the measures and then finding a place to display and explain what they are showing are two HUGE hurdles. From my experience, it is the second one, using our measures, where we fall down. And yet if we used measures properly, we’d reinforce the progress of our change, and improve the chances of success in our change initiatives.

Measures tell our story

There are many good reasons to measure progress and outcomes on a change initiative. I think the best way to look at measures is that they tell us a story. They tell us how we are doing, when we are doing well, when we are not. They challenge our assumptions because measures contain real and current data, while our assumptions may not. The story that measures tell helps us to learn and reinforces a learning environment at work. The story they tell sets a foundation for further continuous improvement efforts. Most important, measures tell us when we have reached our goals and show how we got there. All of this, this measurement story, can be used to reinforce your change initiative.


Measures in a change initiative pay you back multiple times over, if you use them. Your communications team will love having measurement data to use in their messaging. They can craft updates for meetings, town halls, poster campaigns, infographics, updates on social media, video and email campaigns.

Better yet, measurement data gives sponsors more to talk about. Sponsors legitimize the change by communicating about the change frequently and driving consequences. Measurement data provides the opportunity to do both.

There is no better way to talk with others about a topic than with data. What a gift! The measure of progress also helps the sponsor deliver consequences, both praise and reprimand, reinforcing with those watching that the sponsor is involved with the change and that the change is important enough to measure and to talk about the results. Measures create wonderful content for sponsors.

For those with visual factory boards, measures should command real estate on the shop floor. This constantly reinforces that the change is important, and shows the progress made.

Reinforce the change

All of this reinforces the change. Measuring the change gives you information, but you must use it. And when you do, you reinforce awareness about the change, sponsorship for the change, communication and motivation for the change.

To justify a change, the benefits should outweigh the hurdles. With measures, the hurdles are fighting through the jungle of terminology and methodology to create them, and the fear of losing face if the published data looks bad. The benefits are increasing awareness of the change with your target audience, giving sponsors the data and tools to do their job, giving communication teams material for messaging, building out a meaningful visual factory, and reinforcing the change every time an employee speaks with the sponsor, gets an update on email or social media, or looks across the shop floor at the visual factory board. I think the Measures win this one. Use them!

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Change Readiness Assessments are crucial tools used during the planning stage of a Change Management initiative. They help in gauging an organization's preparedness to embrace, implement, and sustain Change effectively. These assessments can be utilized before major transitions or [read more]

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"The only constant in life is change." – Heraclitus

Such is true for life, as it is for business. The entire ecosystem our organization operates in—our customers, competitors, suppliers, partners, the company itself, etc.—is constantly changing and evolving. Change can be driven by emerging technology, regulation, leadership change, crisis, changing consumer behavior, new business entrants, M&A activity, organizational restructuring, and so forth.

Thus, the understanding of, dealing with, and mastery of the Change Management process is one of the most critical capabilities for our organization to develop. Excellence in Change Management should be viewed as a source of Competitive Advantage.

Learn about our Change Management Best Practice Frameworks here.

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About John Pryor

John Pryor is an accomplished Change Management leader and host of Change-Corner.com. He has spent the last 12 years leading and consulting on organizational change on a global level. You can connect with John through LinkedIn or through his website Change-Corner.com.

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