Apply Kirkpatrick’s 4 Level Evaluation Program to Organizational Change Initiatives

In TRDV 433 Organization Change, students study various interventions that can improve effectiveness at the individual, team, and organization-wide levels when used correctly. Most change agents agree that selecting the correct intervention is both an art and a science. Since billions of dollars were spent on organizational change initiatives over the last two decades, many in the field believe it is time to emphasize the “science” component to ensure that we can document change in a way that justifies expenditures. One way to evaluate change, particularly from the perspective of the training profession, is to apply Kirkpatrick’s model to the change process.

Kirkpatrick’s Evaluation Model

As depicted below, Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Evaluation Program involves the assessment of four unique dimensions. Therefore, when applied to a change initiative, we can use the model to answer such questions as:

  1. At level 1, how did members of the organization react to the change? We may expand this question in terms of effects on job satisfaction, intent to leave, relationships with coworkers and leaders, etc.
  2. At level 2, consider what was learned from the change initiative. More importantly, ask how we can use lessons learned to support the change and build a learning organization.
  3. At level 3, consider the sustainability of the change effort, measuring its continued effects over time.
  4. Finally, at level 4, consider the results of the change initiative in measurable terms and based on the original objectives or reasons to initiate change. Did we achieve what we set out to achieve?

Kirkpatrick’s model offers a comprehensive approach to the measurement of change process outcomes. It provides a structure that ensures that change outcomes are evaluated from a multifaceted perspective. Rather than relying only on financial results, applying the four levels leads us to consider how change initiatives affect the individual worker, the learning organization, whether they are sustainable, and ultimately whether they produce the desired outcomes.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why do you think that organizations fail to measure the results of change initiatives accurately?
  2. What strategies might organizations use to conduct a level 4 evaluation of a change initiative? 

8 comments

  • I think organizations fail to measure the results of change initiatives accurately because there is no clear and compelling information for change; people do not understand and face anxiety and resistance. Information about change should be clear so employees can understand the implications and can feel engaged during the process of change. Lack of trust and empowerment are factors that contribute for organizations to measure results.

    • Lety, intriguing thought re: “clear and compelling information for change”. I agree, the nature of most organizational structures do not communicate a full case for change to all employees. Do you think it would help the change process if that communication were more robust? What implications might come along with that, since so many factors are unknown–even to leadership–at the beginning of the change process?

  • Replying to Kevin’s comment here: agreed. The expenses are not to be underestimated. Investment into solutions should be backed up by data.

  • I suspect It takes precision, time and in-depth knowledge to ensure the correct method is selected for specific situations. There are such a selection of methods to choose from and choosing the wrong one may be the death knoll for any organization’s change process.
    For this area to grow even further, it is important that the science is highlighted. Companies will not continue their dollar spends if there is no emphasis placed on the science component.

  • Organizations sometimes fail to measure the results of change initiatives accurately by failing to fully gather context at the outset–often in Level 1. For example, I recently observed an organization survey its staff on changes to work from home policies due to COVID-19. The survey results were interpreted by leadership as “most staff feel it is more difficult to work from home than in the office”. However the survey failed to account for other difficulties (i.e. childcare) that have made working from home more difficult in the past year. So, management’s reading of the results of the survey does not fully reflect the view of the employees’ who have been working from home, which in turn feeds distrust of management.

    • Excellent point about the need to collect valid data. In this situation, it may have helped to begin with focus groups or interviews to gather information about the issues at hand.

      • Agreed Kathleen. Absent robust data it is very difficult to solve for the problem(s). Interviews would have been ideal.

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