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Good Research Question: "What are some of the big changes your business is making now or has made?"

Better understand the world your user lives in by asking about change management.

Research is all about getting a nuanced picture of a situation. 

Whether you’re holding a discovery session in a boardroom with many stakeholders, or conducting a one-on-one interview, you’ll want to get a picture of the bigger organizational context in which your interviewees exist. This is where asking questions about recent and ongoing changes at a company comes in very handy. 

The question Helpfully likes to ask is: “What are some of the big changes your business is making now or has made in the last couple of years?”

If your research will cover technology and tech infrastructure, we often tweak it to include ‘implementations’ or ‘new platforms’: “What are some of the big changes / implementations your business is making now or has made in the last couple of years?” 

The first benefit of this question is that it highlights the company’s values and priorities. The thing you change first is indicative of what they believe is most important or salient. To be fair, the changes made first will probably be about cash flow over culture - but that too says something about culture. The second benefit is an understanding of current operations and procedures. Depending on how quickly and effectively the company makes changes will reveal if their current operations are nimble or sluggish. Third, you can get a pulse on the strength of the leadership and team by the support for the change. 

Before diving down the various paths you can take this question, here’s a hot tip: you really only need your interview participant to think of one scenario. While they may think of many, bring the conversation back to one scenario at a time so that the results are specific and as close to the truth as possible. Ask a few prompting questions to help them start, but give them time to think and don’t fill the silences. 

Company Values & Priorities

It's common for companies to prominently display their values, but sometimes, the translation into actual implementation is lacking. It’s easy to craft a beautifully worded, sophisticated company constitution, but it’s much harder for it to be written into an individual or company behavior code. This sounds familiar, doesn’t it? … bodies of law… religious codes… cultural norms… and yes, even new year’s resolutions - even though they’re everywhere, they’re not always practiced or observed. 

So, asking about changes to company policy can clarify:

a) what a company prioritizes

b) how they decide what is important especially if the change came as a request from their employees 

and c) did the change actually come about? 

Company Operations and Procedures

When asking about how a company handles change, start at the very beginning.  Ask how the change was announced to the company or employees. Did leadership clarify the change's rationale and future benefits? Did they share the vision? Are changes communicated the same way every time? If the change was not announced and people were caught off guard or excluded from the vision - that says a lot about the culture your interviewee is operating within. This might hint at cultural issues within the organization.

The manner in which change is executed can reflect the broader company ethos. Organized change is often reflected in other aspects, including project execution and communication. Clear communication before, during, and after change suggests a commitment to transparency and employee engagement. It also shows the strengths and weaknesses in communication patterns, revealing who hears information and when. How frequently are updates made to employees? How about check-ins to see if tasks are accomplished / how people are adapting to the change?

Strength of Organization

Asking this question sheds light on how individual employees react. Who steps up to lead, who prefers to stay in the background, and who might struggle with tasks. Individual behavior often reflects how well or poorly the company manages change.

If the company handles change poorly—meaning unclear communication or ineffective change management—employees can feel frustrated, confused, and powerless. This can result in employees pushing back. This never ends well. However, when changes are communicated effectively and planned well, employees are more likely to embrace change, take ownership, and contribute positively.

In conclusion, asking about a company’s approach to change helps you understand where unforeseen issues might be and how they might already be affecting your participants or the project at hand. Asking about change management will also give you a better context for the problems you’re trying to solve.

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