Imagine you walk into a doctor’s office. The doctor asks a few questions, announces a diagnosis, and hands you a prescription. How would that quick assessment make you feel? How accurate do you think their diagnosis is? Well, this happens WAY too often with organizational engagement assessments – surveys with little to no dialogue and some resulting blind prescriptions or actions.
It’s difficult to learn from an assessment without creating a two-way dialogue around it. An assessment without a conversation about the results can become a “check-the-box” exercise, or worse: it could misidentify problem and push you toward a solution that will not solve the real issue. This could cost the organization lots of money, time, and energy on an ineffective program.
ASSESSMENTS – A DOORWAY TO DIALOGUE
An assessment, of any kind is only one step in a process of intentional change. Discussion after assessment is crucial in determining a sustainable solution. In our experience, these conversations are how we uncover the real problem to catalyze sustainable change.
Over the past 8 years it has become clear to us that clarity is achieved by using assessments as a starting point for dialogue. The key steps we have learned are:
- Strategize – determine the development area & scope
- Assess – facilitate an assessment to measure the current state & tune into the desired state
- Engage – create space for dialogue & reflection through highly interactive & collaborative workshops
- Align – crystallize insights & an action plan
- Activate – execute & manage priority actions & shifts
During this stage, we work with the people who have invited us into the discussion to understand their perspective on what is needing focus. We then identify the right assessment tools to get at the most useful information that will enable productive dialogue. The development area (what is measured) and the scope (who will be participating) are identified through a collaborative process.
The assessment stage focuses on measurement. The data from the results identifies where to begin the work. A common mistake is to skip over the Engage step and the assessment results alone are used to jump to a solution and action. In other words, going from Assess straight to Activate, passing over the opportunity to create dialogue and engage people in understanding the problem so that there is ownership of the solution. The risk of doing this that you may misdiagnose the issue and waste precious resources on a program that does not address the root cause.
Assessment results alone are not enough to diagnose the real problem. That’s why the Engage stage in our process is so important. In this stage we leverage the collective wisdom of the group by engaging them in a robust dialogue about the assessment results to explore the data beneath the surface. In some cases, those conversations uncover the real underlying issue not made obvious by the assessment.
Here are a few such cases from our client experience:
This Engage stage is integral in accurately surfacing the problem and therefore needs to be given proper attention and energy. Here are some tips to maximize the impact of the Engage stage:
i) Clarity is kindness – mobilizing by socializing! Communication is key. Let everyone know well before launching the assessment what the process will look like, what will be asked of them, and why it will be integral for growth & progress.
ii) Unpack together – facilitate, share & explore the results, devise insights together as well as confirm priority shifts needed
iii) Understand the So What – the goal should be engagement & meaningful dialogue about the results. Create an inclusive process & environment for all to share their thoughts & ask questions.
iv) Be clear on the Now What – commit to change by being specific & intentional with the activations you choose as a result of the assessment. Remember that keeping it few & focused is a good strategy for intention-setting and will improve chances of success.
Led by the data from the assessment (Assess) and the insights from the engage workshops (Engage), Align is about gaining commitment about where the action is needed – this is most often done with the leadership team. This means that by the final stage: Activate, everyone has been part of the conversation, the real problem is understood, and a sustainable solution is committed to.
This stage is about executing and managing the priority actions in support of the solution, or desired shift. This in fact is the hardest step and we will write another article with best practices on implementing culture change. Put simply, all of the work to this point will be lost unless there is a clear and on-going set of steps that reinforce the change that was mapped out through this process.
This five-step process is a proven, repeatable methodology that leads to sustainable change in shifting organizations & leaders.
DON’T WASTE A GOOD ASSESSMENT
Let’s revisit the doctor’s office again. Whose diagnosis & prescription would you trust more: a Doctor who asks only a few high-level questions or a Doctor who digs deep into your problem (asking in-depth questions or running a few extra tests) to accurately identify the underlying issue before giving their recommendations? Your answer is likely the latter!
Remember that assessments are springboards into dialogue. When you go to the Doctor’s office you expect to have a conversation about the symptoms you have to reach a diagnosis. Organizational assessments are the same: we need to hold space for conversation about the assessment to understand the problem completely. Don’t waste a good assessment and opportunity to learn & grow by opting out of collaborative engagement!
Interested in learning how you can leverage our 5-step process in your organization?