You cannot manage what you cannot measure; ergo, organizational change management (OCM) without measurement is actually mismanagement.

I was in a discussion recently about a group that wanted better visibility and recognition within their organization. Before long, I posed the question, “How do you know when you have achieved better visibility?” After a pregnant pause, the answer was, “I’m not sure.” I wasn’t surprised, because I ask this question a lot and I usually get a similar response. Most leaders recognize the need for organizational or behavioral change management; however, they don’t have the first clue about how to measure it. Such ambiguity serves neither the organization, nor the change specialists who are trying to help them. To be confident that your change efforts are successful, you must know how to measure change.

Flying Blind

Organizational change measurement is the dimension of your change approach that instruments both its effectiveness and efficiency. Trying to effect change without a measurement system is like flying a commercial jetliner without an instrument panel: it’s irresponsible and unnecessary. The most common resistance I hear for measuring change usually sounds like, “Some things just cannot be measured.” In over twenty years of working with organizations to improve their analytical prowess, I’ve never met a change scenario that couldn’t be measured. Even with a low-powered scientific lens you could easily measure any organizational change.

It’s important to tailor your measurement system to the scope of your change management effort. The rule of thumb is that simpler is better. However, you don’t want to undershoot to a place called simplistic, which is ineffective and useless. For a developmental change, where the goal is to improve the competency of a target community that’s already performing well, you only need to measure actual results. For instance, I developed an organizational change plan for a large utility provider when they upgraded their Geographic Information System (GIS). In this case, I designed a simple survey to baseline and monitor stakeholder satisfaction with their GIS experience.

However, for a transformation change, where a culture shift is required to support new and unchartered territory, you’ll need to measure results and behaviors. This requires a larger investment in time, money and resources. For instance, when a global payments company wanted to radically improve their customer satisfaction and retention in Europe, they asked me to help analyze churn (lost customers) and develop an organizational system for its prevention. In this case, we continued to measure customer satisfaction and engagement; however, we didn’t stop there. We also profiled digital behaviors that signal churn and measured the organizational response (e-mails, calls, site visits, etc.) to these important triggers.

Rulers and Yardsticks

There are two general categories of change measurement: results and observed behaviors. At a minimum, you must measure results. Fortunately, this category is the easiest and least costly to measure. The prerequisite though, is clarity on your objective. Are you trying to increase adoption, sustain proficiency, or reduce waste? Once you’re absolutely clear on your outcome, it’s easier to develop a measure. I’m currently working with a large oil and gas company to supplant the technology that supports their management of change (MOC) process. They were chiefly concerned that usage and quality would suffer, so we monitored these metrics as we deployed the change. We measured usage by the number of MOCs created and we measured quality by the assessment of specialists called MOC coordinators.

Measuring behaviors is a bit more challenging and costly, but necessary with more significant change efforts. If you’re asking your organization to adopt new behaviors or the desired behaviors antecede the results by weeks or months, it’s important to highlight both the result and the behaviors that drive the result. An expert on behavior should develop and operate a behavior measurement system. It starts by pinpointing key behaviors that contribute to the intended result. The expert then develops an operational definition of what each behavior looks like in reliable and unambiguous terms. Throughout the change implementation, change experts walk the halls to assess observed behavior and record their findings on preconfigured data collection templates. The results are then published with the result metrics, so the target community can understand how their performance contributes to the intended results.

Supporting the measurement of results and behaviors is a variety of available lagging and leading indicators. For instance a lagging indicator of quality (a results measurement) may come from internal audits. Or, a leading indicator of preparation (a behavioral measurement) may come from a study of behavioral intent using 360-degree interviews. These activities are not inherently quantitative; however, you can easily mold them for quantitative purposes by structuring their outcome (i.e., with a Likert-style scale). The list of available leading/lagging metrics is only limited by your imagination; however, be sure to test and validate their accuracy before you stamp them for approval.


Measurement is an inextricable component of organizational change management. Without it, you’re just flying blind in an expensive machine. Don’t fall prey to the contemporary folklore that some things cannot be measured. Anything can be measured–including change–and you shouldn’t go broke in the process. If you’re contemplating an organizational change, take some time today to consider how you’ll clarify and measure your results, and possibly the behaviors that drive those results. I don’t know about you, but I feel a whole lot more comfortable flying in a plane that has an instrument panel.

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