Change Readiness is the means of understanding and increasing the likelihood of innovation adoption by stakeholders in the capital projects industry. Research from Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Kansas (KU) shows that even when a compelling innovative solution is implemented, there is 70% likelihood that by the time a fifth project is executed, the innovation will have been forgotten and practices will revert to what was as been done in the past. The implications of this finding help explain the slow evolution of the capital projects industry. 

Fiatech is addressing this problem. The first step in the process is knocking down barriers that block sustained implementation of innovative practices. With the help of research from ASU and KU we’ve discovered ways to assist industry stakeholders in overcoming internal barriers to innovation adoption.

Getting Innovation to Land

Innovation is like a jet, representing productivity, improvement and solutions coming in for landing. Jets can’t land without a ‘stakeholder runway’ that is receptive to landings. The characteristics of these runways are directly dependent on the level of leadership and advancement in the area of Change Readiness.  Without the right runway, innovation, no matter how good, will crash and burn. 

Four Leadership Attributes

Strategic Vision establishes achievable objectives for organizational change. Research by ASU and KU shows that organizations having a long-term strategic vision for change, encounter six times less resistance than those that implement change from the top-down or implement forced, rapid change. The research goes on to show that even when an innovation provides significant productivity gains, over 90% of engineering & construction organizations fail to sustain long-term adoption! Fortunately, research also shows there are proven strategies for achieving long-term adoption. 

Expertise must be recognized from all organizational levels touched by the innovation. It’s important to engage personnel who understand operational context in their areas of responsibilities. They are ideally positioned to understand and embrace innovation and often have ideas for how to optimize adoption. Equally important is that soliciting their participation creates self-accountability; when personnel know their thoughts have been incorporated into the organizational change effort, they take ownership and will more enthusiastically support the change. When they are denied an active participation role, personnel will inevitably wonder, “What’s in it for me?” and leadership may face a lack of sufficient buy-in across their organization, which will cause the innovation to fail. 

Alignment is the “people side” of change, which is more critical to adoption and sustainability than the technical aspects. Change readiness leaders must align their personnel for success. Research shows that 16% of industry personnel can be classified as “innovators & early adopters”. They are more open and enthusiastic about change opportunities. Change readiness leaders should develop and implement diagnostic tools to assess change readiness capacity at the individual level and to identify the “innovator & early adopters”. Identifying these individuals enables leaders to engage them early in the change effort as champions and advocates (change agents) which lays the foundation for early successes and builds momentum for the change to propagate throughout the organization. 

Pathfinders are enthusiastic change agents. They guide the organization during innovation adoption efforts by ensuring the change vision is communicated in an accurate and understandable form. Research shows pathfinders create a fourfold increase in the change readiness of an organization.  Pathfinders are most effective when they have direct involvement at the operational levels of the organization; in fact, research shows that change readiness is increased sevenfold when properly trained pathfinders are active at the operational levels.  A critical leadership action is to find and develop these pathfinders who will provide “in-the-trenches” leadership from initial implementation to sustained long-term innovation adoption. 

Four Advancement Attributes

Situational Awareness is the motivator that stimulates and maintains behavior change.  Organizations achieve situational awareness through change-ready benchmarks.  These benchmarks provide ongoing visibility and the impetus for innovation by identifying sources of inefficiency and successes through simple understandable performance metrics. Research shows that change-ready benchmarks must combine core operational outcomes (related to cost, schedule, and satisfaction); and be directly linked to individual personnel and project team success measurements.  Change ready benchmarks can be consolidated to provide a complete performance map of entire groups, programs, and organizations. 

Transparency creates an environment where personnel are better able to understand and optimize their work products and flows. Transparency provides a live feedback loop, which triggers natural and spontaneous behavior change at the individual level. This is accomplished by providing structured communication of change-ready benchmarks, in near real-time, to individual personnel. Once individual change occurs on a widespread basis, the culture of the entire organization rapidly evolves. In one research case, the U.S. Army Medical Command used transparency systems to double their on-time and on-budget rates for construction projects, all without any management-directed innovation initiatives.  

Foundation & Sustainment provides the underpinnings for innovation and sustained long-term adoption.  Research shows that organizations can increase change readiness by eightfold with proper and targeted change-related training.  Executives must know how to communicate the change vision and align their organization for success. Operations managers need to understand how to act as successful “in-the-trenches” change agents. They must continually take steps to ensure the participation and engagement of front-line personnel.  To accomplish this they must solicit feedback, gain buy-in, and build the new skill-sets needed to actually change operational traditions. Organizational change is not a discrete, one-time event; rather, continuous education is critical to achieving sustained innovation adoption.  

Positive Accountability monitors, identifies and celebrates organizational transformation “wins” throughout the innovation adoption process. Leaders cannot take a “carrot-and-stick” approach during organizational change but instead they must emphasize positive and strategic personnel development. Continually highlighting specific change related achievements engages personnel reflection on positive progress; such as a successful project, an isolated area of improvement, or enthusiastic personnel actions. Additionally, conducting periodic workshops to reflect on progress and discuss current challenges helps to build and maintain personnel skillsets. Research shows that on-going change related training is a leading driver of positive change readiness outcomes. 

Fiatech will provide leadership in developing strategies to advanceme Change Readiness in the industry. To take the next steps in growing your Change Readiness awareness:

1) Take this brief Industry Innovation Adoption survey.  The distribution of this survey will exceed 80,000 and assist us in establishing the Change Readiness landscape of the industry.  Highlights of results will be provided on the Fiatech website, discussed in the Fiatech Leadership Forum.

2) Visit the Fiatech Change Readiness website, watch the introduction video and take the quiz.  

3) If you are a Fiatech member, invited guest (contact Eva Leos: or Owner, attend the Fiatech Leadership Forum, where Change Readiness will be introduced and championed throughout  the workshops.

4) Participate with other Fiatech members in the Change Readiness Community of Interest to develop strategies and plans to enable industry advancement. 

Reg Hunter, is Sr. Program Dir. at Fiatech and a recognized industry change agent. He has hands-on engineering and business expertise, has been granted over 30 patents, and a proven ability in developing innovative solutions to complex problems.


Dr. Brian Lines is an assistant professor in the Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering Department at the University of Kansas. His research on organizational change has incorporated a total project value of $1B+. 

Jeff Sawyer is a researcher at Arizona State University, was the co-founder of an Arizona-based design-build firm, and was the former capital improvements project manager for the City of Prescott.