Performing Organizational Assessments

Definition: Organizational assessments follow a systems science approach to analyze a proposed transformation, determine the impacts of the transformation on the organization, assess the preparedness of the organizational entities to adopt the transformation, and assess the "people and organizational" risks associated with the transformation.

Keywords: business intelligence, direct and indirect stakeholders, organizational impacts, organizational risk, strategic alignment

MITRE SE Roles & Expectations: MITRE systems engineers are expected to be cognizant of the behavioral complexities of transformation on organizations, the necessity to analyze the organization's capability, to understand organizational drivers that will impact the transformation, and how to align the organization to successfully adopt the change. MITRE uses organizational assessments to provide sponsor executives and managers the business intelligence to successfully lead the transformation. MITRE systems engineers are expected to develop and recommend organizational strategies that will facilitate the successful adoption of the change, and to monitor and evaluate sponsor organizational change management (OCM) efforts recommending changes as warranted.


Organizational assessments follow a system science approach to assess the dynamics at work in the sponsor's organization. The approach is to collect data and analyze factors that impact organizational performance to identify areas of strength as well as opportunity. There are a number of excellent models for understanding and analyzing data during an organizational change assessment, including the Burke-Litwin Model of Organizational Performance and Change shown in Figure 2. In this model, there are a number of interdependent factors, both external and internal, that exist simultaneously and affect the performance of an organization. These interdependent variables range from external budget pressures, to the organization's culture and leadership, to the skills and behavior of the lowest-level employee. The Burke-Litwin model provides a framework to effectively analyze, interpret, develop recommendations, communicate, and manage change within an organization.

Organizational Assessment Best Practice—Assessment Approach

One organizational assessment approach, used by MITRE, is shown in Figure 1. The assessment is a repeatable process that applies social behavioral best practices developed and proven effective in the public and private sectors. This process is designed to help leaders assess where their organization is in the change process, identify organizational gaps, transformation risks/issues and to determine what they need to do as they move through the process.

Figure 1. Organizational Assessment Approach

The following five-step approach is suggested:

  • Project Mobilization—During the start-up phase of the project, review background material, conduct project planning, and conduct initial meetings with the client to gain insights and discuss the project approach.

Deliverables: Work plan and kickoff briefing

  • Phase 1 Data Collection (Big Picture)—The first phase of data collection will provide a holistic, big picture assessment of the organization. Working with an organization's leadership, identify key stakeholders to interview. Develop interview protocols based on an organizational systems model and will investigate areas such as: External Environment, Mission & Strategy, Leadership, Organizational Culture, Organizational Structure, Management Practices/Processes, etc.—and any specific areas of interest and need to the organization. Collect and analyze data and identify key issue areas.

Deliverable: Preliminary findings—key issues

  • Phase 2 Data Collection (Targeted)—After discussion and agreement with organizational leaders, conduct a second phase of data collection to gather more in-depth understanding around key issue areas to guide the development of alternatives and solutions.

Deliverable: Detailed findings

  • Analysis and Identification of Strategic Changes—After analyzing the more detailed data, engage the organization's management team in a process to identify strategic changes (through offsites and/or working sessions).

Deliverable: Analysis and alternatives

  • Action Planning—If desired, collaborate with an organization's management team to develop action plans to address change priorities.

Deliverable: Action plans

NOTE: All organizational assessments require sponsor participation and direction on the goals and objectives of the transformation prior to performing the analysis of workforce.

Organizational Assessment Best Practice—Organizational Modeling
Burke-Litwin Model of Organizational Performance and Change

Overview of Burke-Litwin Model

Burke-Litwin is a system science model that describes the linkages among the key factors that affect performance, and determine how change occurs in an organization. Through the use of this model system, engineers obtain data on what organizational factors to change and why. Higher level factors (blue boxes) have greater weight in effecting organizational change; a change in any variable will ultimately affect every other variable. Figure 2, Burke-Litwin Model of Organizational Performance and Change, depicts the system science approach:

Figure 2. Burke-Litwin Model of Organizational Performance and Change

Table 1, Dimensions of Burke-Litwin Model, provides key sample questions system engineers should ask regarding the 12 variables, or dimensions, of the Burke-Litwin Model.


Table 1. Dimensions of Burke-Litwin Model


of Model

Key Questions

1. External Environment

  • What are the key external drivers?
  • How are these likely to impact on the organization?
  • Does the organization recognize these?

2. Mission and Strategy

  • What does top management see as the organization's mission and strategy?
  • Is there a clear vision and mission statement?
  • What are employees' perceptions of these?

3. Leadership

  • Who provides overall direction for the organization?
  • Who are the role models?
  • What is the style of leadership?
  • What are the perspectives of employees?

4. Organizational Culture

  • What are the overt and covert rules, values, customs, and principles that guide organizational behavior?

5. Structure

  • How are functions and people arranged in specific areas and levels of responsibility?
  • What are the key decision-making, communication, and control relationships?

6. Systems

  • What are the organization's policies and procedures, including systems for reward and performance appraisal, management information, human resources, and resource planning?

7. Management Practices

  • How do managers use human and material resources to carry out the organization's strategy?
  • What is their style of management, and how do they relate to subordinates?

8. Work Unit Climate

  • What are the collective impressions, expectations, and feelings of staff?
  • What is the nature of relationship with work unit colleagues and those in other work units?

9. Task and Individual Skills

  • What are the task requirements and individual skills/abilities/knowledge needed for task effectiveness?
  • How appropriate is the organization's "job-person" match?

10. Individual Needs and Values

  • What do staff members value in their work?
  • What are the psychological factors that would enrich their jobs and increase job satisfaction?

11. Motivation

  • Do staff feel motivated to take the action necessary to achieve the organization's strategy?
  • Of factors 1 through 10, which seem to be impacting motivation the most?

12. Individual and Organizational Performance

  • What is the level of performance in terms of productivity, customer satisfaction, quality, and so on?
  • Which factors are critical for motivation and therefore performance?


Organizational Assessment Products

Primary outputs from the organizational assessments include:

  • Organizational Impact Assessment (OIA): Provides information on the status of the organizational entities and personnel to adopt the transformation. The OIA will identify direct and indirect impacts on the workforce, direct and indirect stakeholders and how the transformation will impact the accomplishment of the sponsor's mission.
  • Organizational Risk Assessment (ORA): Provides sponsor executives with business intelligence on the type and severity of transformation risks and issues and potential mitigation solutions. The ORA may be integrated into one overall organizational impact assessment.

NOTE: The organizational change strategy output from the OIA and ORA provide sponsor executives with the business intelligence to develop the organizational change management (OCM) direction.

  • Optional Deliverable-Workforce Transformation Strategy & Plan: Explains the transformation plan ensuring integration with the sponsor's technical and deployment teams, integrates organization preparation, communication, and training activities into one transformation plan, and explains how the transformation program management team will manage daily OCM activities and briefings.
  • Communications Planning: Systems engineers also need to be cognizant that a system science approach includes communications planning and outreach strategies to initiate and sustain communications to affected organizational entities and key transformation participants (e.g., internal and external stakeholders). Communications planning requires the development of near-term communications and subsequent implementation of the plans. Further information on performing and developing communication strategies and plans is found in the SEG article "Effective Communication and Influence."

References & Resources

Burke, W., 2008. Organizational Change: Theory and Practice. Sage Publications, 2nd Edition.

Burke, W. and G. Litwin, 1992, "A Casual Model of Organizational Performance and Change," Journal of Management, Vol. 18, No. 3.

Flint, David, 2005, "The User's View of Why IT Projects Fail," Gartner Report.

Kelman, S., 2005, Unleashing Change: A Study of Organizational Renewal in Government, The Brookings Institute.

Kotter, John P., 1998, "Winning at Change," Leader to Leader, 10 (Fall 1998), 27-33.

Lawson E. and C. Price, 2003, "The Psychology of Change Management," McKinsey Quarterly.

Mergers and Transformations: Lessons Learned from DHS & Other Federal Agencies, November 2002, GAO-03-293SP.

Ostroff, Frank, May 2006, "Change Management in Government," Harvard Business Review.


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