Change Management: Investigation Is the Second Step

Change management in an office
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During the second step or stage of change management, called investigation, employees explore their desired change in detail, the ramifications of the change, and the necessary actions to bring about the change within their organization.

The change agents (the group of employees who are leading the change effort) or a subset of people in the group have completed the actions recommended at the first stage in managing change, called initiation, and have determined the first steps in making it happen. 

Investigation Stage Actions

In the investigation stage, the change agents gather information about the change problem and potential improvements or solutions. They clarify their vision for the future after the change has been implemented.

During the investigation stage, employees who are leading and supporting the proposed change should engage in the following activities:

  • Attend conferences, trade shows, seminars, and classes to explore specific options and alternatives in depth
  • Visit other organizations that have already implemented all or part of a solution or improvement
  • Invite vendors to discuss their products that offer potential solutions
  • Continue reading about and reviewing specific technology or system solutions
  • Assess the impact of any potential change on the organization
  • Choose an evaluation team to identify specific requirements or criteria for change, improvement, or solutions

Additional Investigation Steps

The change agents need to assess the organization's readiness for change. They also must identify and consider the forces that will help the team drive the change ​and the forces that will impede the team from making changes.

Organizational readiness for change is determined informally through conversations, observing behavior, going on culture walks, and assessing the degree to which employees are frustrated with the current system or way of doing things.

An organization's readiness for change can also be measured by using assessments given to employees.

Forces For and Against Change

Social psychologist Kurt Lewin suggested that organizational behavior is the result of an elaborate set of forces acting upon an organization. Some of these forces are internal; others are external. Some of the forces drive the desired change, and some of the forces act against the change.

For a change in an organization to occur, there must be an imbalance between the driving forces and the restraining forces. This is called unfreezing the organization and it occurs in one or both of these ways:

  • Increasing the driving forces
  • Decreasing the restraining forces

Often this first phase of change is the most difficult. It is hard to unlearn old and comfortable ways of doing things. After unfreezing, however, change becomes possible.

Encouraging the driving forces and seeking to minimize the restraining forces calls for many conversations at all levels of an organization. Often, when senior leaders attempt to implement change, they find that their biggest restraining forces are members of their middle management team.

Change agents must invest significant effort at the investigation stage to help all levels of an organization see what's in it for them to support and move forward with the desired change. In this way, you minimize the resistance that can undermine any efforts to make a change.

After completing the investigation stage, the change agents should know the following things:

  • The extent and impact of performance gaps or problems relative to the desired performance
  • Whether the organization is likely to attain the desired performance as a result of the change option
  • Information about alternatives for closing the gap, including modifications to current systems and new technologies, processes, and systems
  • Whether the identified solution will solve the problems or improve the system
  • Whether outside sources are needed to assist with the planning and implementation of the identified change