Tools

Track Organizational Change with a Change Charter

This “cheat sheet” aligns leaders on the changes they want to see in their teams and serve as a communication tool for the organization at large

One of the most common questions we hear from leaders is, “how do we know that change is actually happening?” They’d love to be able to point to a specific number, a measurement that proves to teams (as well as their bosses) that yes, teams are really changing. All the effort that’s being put in is resulting in an organization that’s more productive; teams that trust each other and collaborate more; employees that are more engaged and have better work-life balance.

Unfortunately, while there is no one metric to measure change (yet), there are plenty of indicators that you’re moving in the right or wrong direction. These measures of success are often hard to quantify, but easy to articulate. We like to think of them in terms of what a successful organization looks, sounds, or feels like. For example:

  • It can look like meetings that produce clear next steps with owners, as opposed to agenda-less, endless meetings.
  • It can sound like a leadership team holding open, courageous conversations about challenges, rather than having hallway conversations or ignoring issues altogether.
  • It can feel like a team that rallies when faced with an unexpected problem, instead of simmering tension.

But even before you start defining what success looks like, you need to align around the issues your team is currently facing: if others aren’t convinced there’s a problem, they’re not going to expend any energy in fixing it. That’s why we’ve developed the Change Charter. 

This simple one-pager aligns leaders on the changes they want to see in their organization, and also serves as a “cheat sheet” for communicating about change with the wider organization—why are we making these changes? What can teams expect? If you’re embarking on your own change program, bring the team together for an hour-long session to ask:

  1. What must we change? If you’re considering a Change Charter, you probably already have some sense of problem areas, so invite other leaders to share their observations and make sure everyone’s on the same page. But if you’re not sure of what needs to change—maybe you just have some sense of general unease, or you hear constant grumbling from the team—you may need to do some research first. This might take the form of a team retrospective, a series of 1:1s, or even an anonymous survey. 
  2. Why must we change? When things get difficult—when resources are tight and deadlines are looming—it’s easier to NOT change, to put off needed work. To avoid this situation, remind yourselves why you’re making these changes. Is there a competitive threat? Higher turnover? If you’re feeling stuck, embrace your inner toddler and keep asking “why” until you get to the root cause. These reasons are especially important when you’re talking about change with the organization at large: without context, this could very well look like another fruitless exercise to make the leadership team look important. 
  3. Why must we change now? Similarly, identify what’s going on in the environment that makes this change so urgent. If your team has probably heard broken promises about how things are going to change before, make sure you explain what’s different—why will these changes be successful where previous attempts have failed? Again, look for root causes, not surface answers.
  4. From/To Statements. Now think about the future of the organization. What outcomes do you want? What will the team look, feel, or sound like when a team is successful? How must the problem areas identified in “What must we change” evolve? Again, don’t get too caught up on specific numbers or KPIs. You might not have an exact index for “team trust” for instance, but you know what it looks like and feels like.
  5. How must we change? Finally, identify some immediate steps and owners—individuals who are responsible for making sure those tasks get done. We recommend focusing on two types of activities: quick wins to demonstrate your commitment to change and that build change momentum; and schedules or rhythms to check in on this work and make sure it’s moving forward.

Published September 12, 2021