Using Surveys: Smart or Dumb Move?

At a recent seminar we were discussion various ways of determining readiness for change, commitment of key managers and how resistance would be manifested.  I have always been a fan of asking key individuals and constituencies, especially those that will be most impacted by changes, to get a “feel” for these critical risk areas.

In small organizations one-on-one discussions and focus groups work well and are pretty efficient.  In larger, geographically diverse organizations surveys are very helpful in gathering lots of information.

And there are sources available that have excellent “canned” surveys in a number of areas, such as employee satisfaction, and offer easy to construct and deliver tailored surveys for a reasonable price.   There are a lot of sources for surveys, so, do an internet search for “on line surveys”.  For organizational development, change management and general organizational consulting work take a look at:

Doing your own survey is certainly another option, but you will be swimming in quick sand and not know it until deep into your engagement.  There is an art form in asking a question so as to get an answer that you are looking for…and I don’t mean agree or disagree with you, but that show you what is going on in the organization.  If you do decide to go this not recommended route, you can engage a professional survey maker to craft survey questions.

That said, you will be much happier and less frazzled by using on-line services.

A popular myth is that “organizations are surveyed to death,” so doing surveys is a bad data gathering idea.  I disagree and found support for surveys in an article from Smart Manager, dated September 22, 2008, titled “Why Use Employee Surveys.”  In essence, managers might be over-frequently surveyed, but employees like to be asked their opinion, thoughts and feedback.  Also, employees tend to take surveys seriously, since they believe that their ideas have value and they appreciate the fact that they were asked.

So, in your data gathering, don’t hesitate to use surveys.  You can gather larger numbers and slice and dice the data so as to get a “representative sample” of the organization.  The bottom line is that you want as much input, from as many people from multiple functional areas and levels as you can get.  So as far as time, resources and people permit, supplement your data gathering by also using interviews, focus groups, records and reports, informal discussions, other consultants who have worked with your client, annual reports, the Internet and even competitors.

In the end, you want the clearest picture possible of the organization so that you can craft relevant and effective interventions.  Limiting yourself to just one or two methods of date gathering will hobble you in your work.  Surveys are well received, are inexpensive and bring in a lot of data in a short period of time.

Use this article to fend off the myth of “we are surveyed to death.”  If you need link, shoot me a an email

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