Why Nailing the Right Change Management Metrics is Critical and Can Make or Break Your Reputation
As organizations strive to adapt and thrive in dynamic environments, how change management is tracked has become a strategic imperative. However, the success of any change initiative hinges not only on effective planning and execution but also on the ability to measure and communicate its impact accurately. After all, without the right measures how do we know that we are moving in the right direction? In this article, we explore critical change management reports that executives value in shaping organizational understanding and decision-making. We delve into the metrics that may compromise your credibility and, more importantly, highlight the metrics that executives truly value, providing a roadmap to creating reports that resonate with leadership.
Reading your executives and where they are
Prior to designing the right change management reports and metrics it is absolutely essential that you understand where they are coming from. Understanding their key concerns and perspectives will help you design the right content to engage them. Key questions you may want to delve into include:
What issues are top of mind for executives when it comes to managing change?
What has worked or not worked well in the past for change that should be taken into account?
How experienced are these executives in driving complex change?
Putting your strategic hat on, what are the key business performance challenges that executives are facing into? What are the people and change connections to these?
What are the top key organisational risks that executives are focused on? What are the people and change connections to these?
Metrics That May Downgrade Your Credibility
Vanity Metrics – Metrics That Don’t Connect to Business Outcomes
One of the pitfalls in change management reporting is the reliance on vanity metrics—superficial measures that may look impressive but lack a direct connection to tangible business outcomes. Metrics such as the number of training hours delivered, numbers of stakeholder groups who received communications or the volume of communication materials distributed might seem impressive and easy to measure, but they provide little insight into the real impact of the change on the organization.
Executives are not interested in surface-level data; they want to understand how the change contributes to the achievement of strategic objectives and positively influences key performance indicators. To enhance credibility, change management reports must move beyond vanity metrics and focus on indicators that align with broader business goals.
Activity Metrics – Counting Without Context
Measuring the sheer volume of activities related to a change initiative can be misleading, or worse, meaningless, if not accompanied by context and relevance. Activity metrics, such as the number of workshops conducted, numbers of impact assessment activities conducted, number of deliverables worked on, or emails sent, might create an illusion of progress. However, these metrics fail to provide insights into the quality of engagement, the depth of understanding among employees, or the actual impact on work behaviours. Operational managers may find these interesting, but less likely for executives.
Instead of focusing solely on activities, change management reports should emphasize the effectiveness of these activities in driving desired outcomes. Metrics should, instead, highlight the quality of engagement, the level of understanding, and the behavioural shifts observed within the organization.
Cost-Focused Metrics – Counting Dollars Without Value
While cost-related metrics are important for financial stewardship, solely focusing on cost without considering the value generated by the change can undermine the perceived success of the initiative. Metrics such as the budget spent or the cost per participant may provide financial insights but do not necessarily convey the broader impact on organizational performance.
Change management reports should focus more on value metrics than cost metrics. Focusing purely on cost is restricting the value of managing change as another cost to the business. However, focusing on the value created in maximising business performance and achieving greater adoption can significant extend the understanding of change management value. Executives are interested in understanding what business value is created through managing change. Value includes how the targeted benefits are better realised and how the business performance is protected or maximised during the implementation of change.
Intra-Practice Metrics – Metrics That Only Change Management Cares About
It’s a common misstep to develop metrics that only resonate within the change management function but fail to capture the attention of other business units or executives. Metrics that focus exclusively on communication buzz generated, training satisfaction rates, or employee satisfaction with change processes might be valuable for internal assessments but lack the relevance needed to engage executives.
Even the focus on change maturity, that is often the single most critical focus for change management functions, may or may not appeal to a lot of executives. Unless you have already taken the executives on the journey of why focusing on change maturity is critical and you have them fully onboard with this, treat carefully in reporting on change maturity metrics.
At executive level, change management reports should transcend departmental boundaries and speak to the broader organizational impact. This means that your focus should be on reporting at a portfolio level and key strategic initiatives as relevant. Focus on generating insights of what the totality of changes mean to the organisation, and what employee experiences are across multiple initiatives. Metrics should also align with strategic goals and showcase how the change initiatives contributes to overarching business objectives.
The Right Metrics
I. Change Readiness Metrics – Assessing the Pulse of the Organization
Change readiness metrics serve as a barometer for understanding how prepared an organization is for a change initiative. To provide meaningful insights, these metrics should delve into the engagement journey, capturing key elements such as awareness, involvement, and participation.
Awareness: Measure the level of understanding and awareness of the upcoming change across different employee segments.
Involvement: Assess the degree to which employees are actively engaged in the change process, seeking their input and involvement.
Participation: Evaluate the extent to which employees are actively participating in change-related activities and initiatives.
Data Collection Methodology
Utilize a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods to gather data, including surveys, focus groups, and feedback mechanisms.
Ensure a representative sample across different organizational levels and functions to capture a comprehensive view of readiness.
Change Readiness Topic Areas
1. Awareness Assessment:
This section evaluates the extent to which employees are aware of the impending changes across initiatives. It includes an analysis of communication effectiveness, the clarity of messaging, and the overall visibility of the change initiatives. Metrics may encompass the percentage of employees who understand the change purpose and the reach of communication channels.
2. Involvement Evaluation:
Involvement is a key factor in gauging how actively employees are participating in the change process. This explores the degree to which employees feel engaged and have opportunities to contribute to the planning and decision-making aspects of the change. Employees may not have the opportunities to contribute to all types of change initiatives but for those that are relevant this can be quite insightful. Metrics include participation rates in change-related workshops, the number of submitted suggestions, and levels of engagement in feedback sessions.
3. Perceived Impact:
This area delves into employees’ perceptions of how the changes will affect them personally and professionally. It includes an analysis of perceived benefits, risks, and the overall impact on day-to-day responsibilities. Metrics may encompass the percentage of employees who feel well-informed about the impact of the change and qualitative insights from open-ended survey questions.
4. Change Champions performance:
Identifying and nurturing change champions can be crucial for successful change implementation, especially across the change portfolio. The presence of key business change champions who actively support and advocate for the changes within their teams and business units can shed light on how the change is performing. Metrics include the presence of key change champions across business areas, their engagement levels, and the effectiveness of their engagement strategies within their respective departments.
5. Learning and Development Readiness:
Learning and development play a vital role in equipping employees with the skills necessary for the upcoming changes. This section evaluates the organization’s readiness to deliver learning programs effectively, including the availability of resources, the alignment of learning content with change objectives, and the accessibility of learning materials. This can be outlined not just at initiative levels, but from business unit perspectives. Different business units may have different processes and channels from which to deploy learning and development across initiatives. The readiness and maturity of these can make or break the adoption of changes.
6. Resource Allocation and Availability:
Change initiatives often require additional resources, and this section examines the organization’s capacity to allocate and provide the necessary resources for a smooth transition. Metrics include the allocation and availability of SME resources, business representatives, the availability of technology and tools, and the overall preparedness of support functions for the myriad of change initiatives. Is there adequate allocation of these resources? For example, for digital transformation is there still reliance on manual work processes that should be upgrade to drive efficiency and effectiveness?
7. Leadership Alignment:
Leadership alignment is a critical factor influencing change readiness. This section evaluates the extent to which various leaders are aligned with the change vision and actively communicate their support. Metrics encompass leadership messaging consistency, visibility, and the perceived commitment of leaders to the success of the change.
8. Employee Feedback Mechanisms:
Establishing effective feedback mechanisms is essential for continuous improvement during change initiatives. This section assesses the availability, content and effectiveness of channels through which employees can provide feedback, ask questions, and express concerns. Metrics include response rates to feedback requests, the variety of feedback channels used, and themes of responses from targeted employee groups.
Change Readiness Data Collection Methods
Collecting data on change readiness is a crucial step in understanding an organization’s preparedness for a change initiative. Various approaches can be employed to gather relevant information. Here’s a list of key approaches:
Surveys and Questionnaires
Online Platforms and Social Listening
II. Change Journey Analytics – Navigating the Transformation Landscape
Change journey analytics provide a view of what key employee change experience highlights are, including insights on any behavioural changes, attitudinal changes, the volume of changes and how changes are being driven against key business performance challenges.
Change Volume Risks
Change volume risk measures highlight key change impact volumes across the business over time, with key call outs on any risks on heightened change periods. The volume and nature of changes can be mapped against strategies to indicate to what extent the level and pace of impacts are aligned with strategic plans
Change Activity Design
The totality of change management activities across initiatives from the lens of impacted employee groups should be analysed with potential risks highlighted including the alignment of learning content, communication message consistency and alignment, and to what extent there maybe excessive or below expected types of change activities in facilitating the change journeys
Single View of Change of BAU and Strategic Initiatives
Provide a consolidated view of ongoing business-as-usual (BAU) changes alongside strategic initiatives. This ensures that executives have a comprehensive understanding of the organizational change landscape. From the perspective of the impacted change stakeholders or employee groups, they may not care about the source of the change and whether it is strategic or not. BAU initiatives may also be even more impactful than strategic initiatives.
Link change activities to business performance metrics. Demonstrate how the change initiative contributes to key performance indicators and strategic goals. Also shed light how the nature and volume of changes may or may not impact the overall business performance. Executives are focused on keeping the business running successfully during change implementation as much as possible, with minimum disruption
Nurturing Lasting Transformation: The Role of Adoption Analytics in Sustainable Change
When we discuss adoption analytics, we transcend the traditional boundaries of project management. While implementation marks the beginning of change, adoption analytics guide us through the more profound stages, measuring the extent to which the organization has embraced and embedded the change. It’s about ensuring that the seeds of change and transformation take root, flourish, and yield sustainable benefits.
1. Business Performance Metrics: Gauging Impact on Organizational Vital Signs
To truly understand the success of change initiatives, one must look beyond the surface and delve into its impact on key business performance metrics. This involves a holistic examination of factors such as productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction (depending on what the changes are).
Productivity: Assessing the changes’ effects on productivity involves measuring the organization’s output and efficiency post-implementation. Has there been an increase in task completion rates, a reduction in errors, or an enhancement in overall workflow efficiency?
Efficiency: Changes often aim to streamline processes and enhance efficiency. Analyzing the efficiency metrics helps determine whether the new procedures or tools have resulted in a smoother and more effective workflow.
Customer Satisfaction: In many cases, change initiatives are driven by a desire to improve customer experience. Adoption analytics in this context involve gauging customer satisfaction levels, whether through surveys, feedback mechanisms, or other relevant indicators.
By examining these metrics, organizations can gauge the real impact of the change on their vital signs, ensuring that the intended improvements manifest in tangible and measurable ways.
2. Benefit Realization: From Anticipation to Tangible Outcomes
Anticipated benefits form the backbone of any change initiative, but true success lies in the tangible realization of these expected outcomes. Benefit realization assessment through adoption analytics involves tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) directly influenced by the change.
Tracking KPIs: Identify and monitor KPIs that are closely tied to the specific objectives of the change. These could include financial metrics, customer retention rates, employee engagement scores, or any other relevant indicators.
Tangible Outcomes: Work hand-in-hand with initiative benefit owners to ensure clear ownership and tracking of benefits. Establish a system that allows for the ongoing assessment of whether the anticipated benefits are being realized in practice.
Continuous Improvement: Benefit realization is an ongoing process. Regularly review and adjust strategies based on the data collected. This iterative approach ensures that the organization remains agile, adapting to changing circumstances and continuously optimizing the impact of the change.
Collaboration with Initiative Benefit Owners: A Crucial Element
A vital aspect of successful adoption analytics is collaboration with initiative benefit owners. These are individuals or teams responsible for overseeing the realization of anticipated benefits. Establishing clear ownership ensures accountability and facilitates a more targeted and effective approach to tracking and optimizing outcomes.
Clear Communication: Foster open lines of communication between change management teams and initiative benefit owners. Clearly communicate the expected benefits and collaborate on defining relevant metrics and tracking mechanisms.
Regular Check-Ins: Establish a framework for regular check-ins to assess progress, identify challenges, and strategize for ongoing success. These check-ins provide an opportunity to recalibrate efforts based on real-time insights.
Data-Driven Decision Making: Encourage initiative benefit owners to make data-driven decisions. Regularly review adoption analytics data together, and use these insights to inform strategic adjustments, ensuring that the organization is on a trajectory towards sustained success.
Adoption analytics are the linchpin in the journey from change initiation to sustainable integration. By meticulously measuring the impact on business performance and diligently tracking benefit realization, organizations can ensure that their transformative efforts result in lasting and meaningful change. Collaboration with initiative benefit owners enhances this process, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability that is crucial for navigating the ever-evolving landscape of organizational transformation.
Change practitioners may not be involved in all aspects of benefit realization and tracking. It could be that the focus is on ‘people’ and behaviour elements of changes that contribute to benefit realization. Incorporating these metrics into change management reports offers a comprehensive view of the change journey, from initial readiness to long-term adoption and benefits realization.
Crafting Compelling Change Management Reports
In the fast-paced world of change management, the ability to convey the impact of initiatives through well-crafted reports is a skill that cannot be underestimated. Executives require more than superficial metrics; they demand a nuanced understanding of how change aligns with strategic goals and influences organizational performance.
By steering clear of vanity metrics, activity-focused measurements, and overly cost-centric reporting, change management professionals can elevate their credibility and influence within the organization. Instead, a focus on change readiness, journey analytics, and adoption metrics provides a holistic perspective that resonates with executives, ensuring that the true value of change initiatives is accurately portrayed.
To gear up for the digital/AI-enabled world that we are already in, change practitioners should also be ready to adopt a range of digital tools to better present and converse about change management reports in a way that is interactive, and easy to generate data insights. Executives may ask a series of questions to probe deeper into the data, or want access themselves to be able to look into certain data points. The ability to answer these questions straight away using digital solutions will be the key to creating confidence, impact and trust with executives.
As organizations continue to navigate the complexities of change, the importance of insightful reporting cannot be overstated. It is not just about delivering change; it is about articulating its impact in a language that executives understand and appreciate. In doing so, change management professionals become not just implementers of change but strategic partners in driving organizational success. This is ultimately the goal for change teams and change practices.
Managing multiple change initiatives is not a new concept nor is it new to organizations. What is perhaps ‘newer’ is how change practitioners are using data to manage multiple changes. Change practitioners that manage a portfolio of initiatives used to focus on building capability in various arenas from employee capability, leadership capability, through to the effectiveness of engagement and learning channels. However, using business and change management data to help companies is just as critical.
In this article, we will explore the top five challenges associated with the current approaches to managing multiple change initiatives. We explore these common approaches and critique key challenges, along with alternatives.
1) Using Change Heatmap to Classify Departments Impacted
Change heatmaps have become a popular tool for classifying departments based on the impact of a change initiative. However, two key issues often arise with this approach: the oversimplification of the traffic light classification system and the lack of granularity at the department level.
One of the most common ways to visually depict the impact of multiple changes is to use the heatmap. This is normally using a 3-point rating system (high, medium, low) to determine the level of impact across the various departments across the organisation. Whilst the rating process is an easy exercise, there are some very serious challenges:
Even for the 3 level rating system the change practitioner may be challenged with how this rating is determined and what it is based on. Not every team within the same department may be equally impacted
There may be different impacts for different roles within the same team and department
The impact may be different depending on whether the focus is on employees, customers, process, system or partner
Typically most use a monthly rating scale. However, for busy organisations with lots of changes, the change volume may go up and down within the same month. With one rating it oversimplifies what actually happens throughout the month
With only 3 levels of ratings, a lot of departments end up having the same rating level for months, meaning there is not much they can do with this data.
In Summary, the summarised monthly rating for one department indicates medium-level change. But at what time of the month, for what role, for what team, and for what type of impact?
The below is an example of a change heatmap from the University of California, Berkeley.
a. Traffic Light Classification Too Simplistic:
The traditional red, yellow, and green traffic light system used in change heatmaps is a simple way to communicate the status of a department’s readiness for change. However, this simplicity can be misleading. Red may indicate a problem, but it does not provide insights into the nature or severity of the issue. Likewise, green may suggest readiness, but it might hide underlying complexities or dependencies.
Even for the 3 level rating system the change practitioner may be challenged with how this rating is determined and what fact it is based on. Also, the impact may be different depending on whether the focus is on employees, customers, process, system or partner. Typically most use a monthly rating scale. However, for busy organisations with lots of changes, the change volume may go up and down within the same month. With one rating it oversimplifies what actually happens throughout the month. Even if the singular departmental rating is split into rating by initiative, this does not provide an aggregate department-level rating that is aggregated based on logic.
To overcome this challenge, organizations need a more nuanced classification system that takes into account the specific issues within each category. This could involve incorporating additional colours or using a numerical scale to better represent the diversity and complexity of challenges within each department.
b. Department Level Not Granular Enough:
While change heatmaps provide a high-level overview, they often lack the granularity required to understand the specific challenges within each department. Different teams within a department may be impacted differently, and a broad classification may not capture these variations.
To address this issue, organizations should consider adopting a more detailed classification system that breaks down each department into its constituent parts. This granular approach allows for a more targeted and effective change management strategy, addressing specific issues at the team and role levels.
In Summary, the singular monthly rating for one department indicates medium-level change. But at what time of the month, for what role, for what team, and for what type of impact?
2) Using Project Milestone Roadmap to Sequence Impacts
Project milestone roadmaps are commonly used to sequence the impacts of change initiatives. However, this approach faces challenges in terms of the sufficiency of milestones and the difficulty of overlaying multiple capacity considerations.
Below is an example from Praxis Framework.
a. Milestones Are Not Sufficient vs Overall Aggregate Impact Levels:
While project milestones provide a structured timeline for change initiatives, they may not capture the full scope of the impact on the organization. Milestones often focus on project-specific tasks and may overlook broader organizational changes that occur concurrently. For example, adoption may require months and is not a single point-in-time milestone per se.
To overcome this limitation, organizations should supplement milestone roadmaps with an overall aggregate impact assessment. This holistic view ensures that the sequence of milestones aligns with the broader organizational objectives and minimizes conflicts between concurrent initiatives.
b. Difficulty of Overlaying Multiple Capacity Considerations:
Managing multiple change initiatives requires a delicate balance of resources, and overlaying capacity considerations can be challenging. Project milestone roadmaps may not adequately address the interdependencies and resource constraints that arise when multiple initiatives are in progress simultaneously.
To enhance capacity planning, organizations should invest in advanced project management tools that allow for the dynamic adjustment of timelines based on resource availability. This ensures a realistic and achievable sequencing of impacts, taking into account the organization’s overall capacity.
3) Relying Purely on Excel and PowerPoint to Manage Multiple Change Initiatives
While Excel and PowerPoint are ubiquitous tools in the business world, relying solely on them to manage multiple change initiatives presents challenges related to the agile nature of changes and the difficulty of having interactive data-based conversations. This is especially the case that most change initiatives are digital changes, and yet they are been managed using non-digital means? How can change practitioners ‘be the change’ when they are using dated ways of driving digital change?
a. Agile Nature of Changes Means Ongoing Updates Are Required:
Change initiatives are inherently dynamic, and their requirements can evolve rapidly. Excel and PowerPoint, while useful for static reporting, lack the real-time collaborative capabilities needed to accommodate the agile nature of changes.
To address this challenge, organizations should consider adopting change management and collaboration tools that enable real-time updates and collaboration. Cloud-based platforms provide the flexibility to make ongoing adjustments, ensuring that stakeholders are always working with the latest information.
b. Difficulty of Having Interactive Data-Based Conversations and Federated Model of Change Data:
Excel and PowerPoint may struggle to facilitate interactive discussions around change data. As organizations increasingly operate in a federated model, with dispersed teams working on different aspects of change initiatives, a more collaborative and integrated approach is essential.
Implementing dedicated change management platforms that support interactive data-based discussions can enhance collaboration and provide a centralized repository for change-related information. This ensures that all stakeholders have access to the latest data, fostering a more transparent and collaborative change management process.
4) Preparing Business Operations Readiness for the Amount of Change
Preparing business operations for a significant amount of change requires a strategic approach that incorporates capacity and time considerations while maintaining granularity in data.
a. Using Business Operations Speak: Capacity, resources, time.
Business operations readiness is often discussed in terms of capacity and time. However, the challenge lies in translating these concepts into actionable plans. Capacity planning involves understanding the organization’s ability to absorb change without compromising existing operations, while time considerations are crucial for ensuring a smooth transition without disruptions.
Change practitioners need to distill the ‘ask of the business’ in business speak. Business stakeholders may not be interested in the various classifications of change or the varying degrees of cultural changes involved. What they are interested in is what you want from my team, how much time you need them to dedicate, and for what team members, so that they can plan accordingly.
b. Granularity of Data:
The granularity of data is essential for effective business operations readiness. Generic metrics may not capture the specific needs and challenges of individual departments or teams, leading to oversights that can impact the success of change initiatives.
Implementing a comprehensive data collection and analysis strategy that considers the unique requirements of each business unit ensures a more accurate understanding of operational readiness. This granularity allows organizations to tailor change management strategies to specific needs, enhancing the likelihood of successful implementation.
5) Getting Executive Engagement and Decision Making
Ensuring executive engagement and decision-making is critical for the success of change initiatives. However, achieving this engagement poses its own set of challenges.
To overcome this challenge, organizations should:
Establish Clear Governance and Engagement Channels:
Ensure that there is in place clear governance bodies making decisions on the overall control of initiatives across the organisation. Communication channels between change management teams and executives should also be well-defined and effective. Regular updates and transparent reporting on the progress and challenges of change initiatives build trust and encourage executive engagement.
Align Change Initiatives with Strategic Objectives:
Demonstrate the alignment of change initiatives with the organization’s strategic objectives. Executives are more likely to engage when they see how a particular change contributes to the overall success and growth of the company.
Provide Decision-Making Frameworks:
Equip executives with decision-making frameworks that guide them through the complexities of change initiatives. Clearly defined criteria for evaluating the success of a change, along with potential risks and mitigation strategies, empower executives to make informed decisions.
Highlight the Business Impact:
Clearly articulate the business impact of change initiatives. Executives are more likely to engage when they understand the tangible benefits and potential risks associated with a particular change. Use data and analytics to support the business case for change.
Offer Ongoing Support and Education:
Ensure that executives have the necessary support and training to navigate the complexities of change management. This includes providing relevant information, resources, and expertise to help them make informed decisions and actively participate in the change process. Creating ‘bite-sized’ and summarised insights is key for executives.
Effectively managing multiple change initiatives is a complex task that requires a holistic and adaptive approach. By addressing the challenges associated with classification, sequencing, tool reliance, business operations readiness, and executive engagement, organizations can enhance their change management strategies and increase the likelihood of successful outcomes. Embracing innovative tools, fostering collaboration, and maintaining a strategic focus on organizational goals are key elements in overcoming these challenges and navigating the ever-evolving landscape of change.
In this article, we’ve stressed the importance of data. You may wonder about the amount of time and effort required to establish all the various points mentioned in the article and if this is even doable. Well, using Excel and other static non-digital ways of managing change data will mean a significant volume of work, and even then it may not provide a clear picture that gives you the various cuts of data required to drive meaningful conversations. Resort to automation provided by change management software such as The Change Compass to assist in data capture, data analysis, and dashboard generation.
Exploring Organisational Structures for Optimal Enterprise Change Management
Change is an inherent part of every organization’s journey towards growth and adaptability in an ever-evolving business landscape. In the realm of change management, one critical consideration is the structure or organizational design that best facilitates successful enterprise change management. There are plenty of different ways to structure change management practices. Like any type of organisational structures for organisations overall, there is not one way that is the most effective. It depends on the circumstances of the company in concern.
Understanding Change Management Structures
Centralized Change Management Structure
Centralized change management structures consolidate the authority, decision-making, and oversight of change initiatives within a single, dedicated team or department. In such a structure, the change management team sometimes reports directly to either Strategy or Office of the CEO. This approach provides the change practice significant influence due to its direct linkage with strategy.
Reporting Lines: HR, IT, Strategy, and More
In addition to the choice between centralized and federated structures, change management specialists (and the senior leaders that they report to) often grapple with determining the optimal reporting lines for their change teams. Several departments within an organization are typically considered for hosting the change management function:
1. Human Resources (HR or People & Culture)
Reporting to HR aligns change management with employee/organisational development and engagement. This can be particularly effective when change initiatives heavily impact the workforce, as HR possesses expertise in people-related matters.
2. Information Technology (IT)
With the increasing digitalization of business processes, reporting to IT can ensure that complex technology-driven changes are well led and managed across the enterprise. The remit for change practices reporting to IT can range from including just technology changes, to all strategic and funded initiatives, through to all of change management as a function.
3. Strategy or Transformation Office
Reporting to the strategy or transformation office closely ties change management to the organization’s overarching strategic goals. This alignment ensures that change initiatives are directly linked to long-term vision and objectives.
For a lot of organisations, the Operations function can determine a lot about how the organisation is run. This can include the change management function as well. The advantage of having the change practice reporting to Operation can mean that the operating rhythm of the organisation can be designed with the right change management approaches. The way employees are engaged, how they’re involved, and how BAU processes are run, measured, and reported can be designed with change management interventions.
Key benefits of a centralized structure include:
Consistency: Centralized control ensures consistent change management practices across the organization, reducing confusion and increasing effectiveness in terms of setting a common level of practice. Consistency in terms of language and concepts mean that it is easier for the business to adopt change management principles and practices.
Resource Allocation: Easier resource allocation, as the centralized team can prioritize and allocate resources based on organizational priorities. With better economy of scale for a larger centralised team, the change group has the opportunity to resource initiatives using different levels of involvement, from sessional, part-time to full-time.
Alignment: Enhanced alignment with the organization’s strategic objectives, as the change management team directly interfaces with top leadership. This means that effort and focus areas as more likely to be on that which is most strategic and can impact the organisation the most.
Change maturity. The change practice has the opportunity to focus on building organisation-wide change maturity due to its ability to interface and influence across the organisation. While other change management structures may also have the ability to focus on building business change maturity, a centralised function has the advantage of having a greater impact level due to its scale.
In contrast, federated change management structures distribute change management responsibilities throughout various business units or departments. Each business unit maintains its own change management team, and these teams collaborate to execute change initiatives. Typically, these teams report to their respective department heads. This means that there is no formal enterprise change management function.
The advantages of a federated structure include:
Local Expertise: Greater understanding of department-specific needs and challenges, leading to tailored change strategies and therefore better change outcomes. Different business units can have very different cultures and different business needs. Having change professionals who understand the various intricacies of the business unit means that they’re able to design change approaches that will better meet business requirements.
Ownership and relationship: There may be increased ownership and commitment among departmental staff, as the change teams sits in the same business unit and are ‘one of them’ versus someone sent from a centralised team. Others in the business unit may be more conducive to advice and support from a colleague in the same broader business unit. It is also easier to establish a closer working relationship if the change practitioner is always working with the same teams.
Flexibility: Greater adaptability to changes in individual departments, as they can independently address unique issues. Without any direction from a central team, the business-dedicated team can better flex their service offering to meet the business unit’s particular focus areas. Whilst, a central team may de-prioritise departmental-level initiatives to be less critical, for a departmental team it is much easier to flex toward their priorities.
Impact on Business Results
The choice of change management structure and reporting lines can significantly impact an organization’s overall business results. Here’s how different structures can yield varying outcomes:
Centralized Structure Outcomes
Efficiency: Centralized structures can excel in efficiency of delivery due to its scale of economy. Whereas small departmental change teams may structure to flex and resource projects efficiently, larger change practices can avoid this by leveraging its range of practitioners with different levels of skill sets and availability.
Consistency: They ensure a consistent approach to change management, reducing confusion among business stakeholders and employees. The consistency of standards also mean that there is less risk that initiatives may experienced a change intervention that is less effective due to the centralised capability standards reinforced.
Top-Down Control: Change initiatives are closely aligned with strategic objectives set by top leadership. This means that any ‘pet projects’ or less prioritised divisional initiatives may not be as likely to be granted change management support. This does not necessarily mean that those departments won’t focus on those initiatives, it just means that change management resources are more prioritised toward what top leadership deems to be most critical.
Federated Structure Outcomes
Local Engagement: Federated structures promote local ownership and engagement, fostering a sense of responsibility among departmental staff. Department-specific change practitioners will be more familiar with ‘what works’ at the department level. They are better able to leverage the right engagement channels and have the ability to access management and leadership roles at the department to garner support and drive overall initiative focus and success.
Adaptability: They allow for greater adaptability to unique departmental needs, which can be crucial in complex organizations. For example, the types of change management approaches and interventions that work for Sales organisations will be very different compared to that for call centres or processing centres. The ability for the change practitioner to adapt locally can make or break an initiative’s success.
Innovation: Different units can experiment with various change approaches, leading to innovative solutions. This can be done without the confines of what is the overarching ‘standards and guidelines’ from the centralised change team.
Choosing the Right Structure
The decision regarding the optimal change management structure should be rooted in the organization’s specific context, culture, and the nature of the changes it is undergoing. Experienced change management specialists understand that a “one-size-fits-all” approach does not exist. Instead, they carefully consider the organization’s goals, resources, and capacity for change.
Also, it may not need to be either centralised or federated model. It can be a combination of both. For examples:
A federated model by reporting lines, however with a strong community of practice that is centralised and that promotes sharing of practices, standards, and even resources. This ensures that the overall group is connected to each other and new innovative approaches can be shared and proliferated
A centralised model by reporting lines, however with dedicated business-specific change partners that are focused on particular business units so that they are delivering business-focused change solutions. At the same time, the team still maintains a lot of the advantages of a centralised team.
The organisational structure and reporting lines for a change practice may influence various aspects of its work, however, this may not be the most critical part of how it creates value for the organisation. Other aspects in which a change practice should focus on in its development include:
Resourcing model. How to fund change management resources and the service delivery model to support a range of different projects with different needs for seniority, skill set, and even organisational tenure
Change methodology/framework. Organisations should work on at least a change management framework to set a minimum standard for change delivery. Using a generic off-the-shelf methodology may be OK, however they may not cater for the particular language and business needs of the organisation.
Change capability and leadership. Outside of project change delivery, the team should also work on gradually building change capability within the organisation to enhance the ability to drive and support change. This may not need to be in the form of training, it can also be done through structured development through real change projects.
Change portfolio/Enterprise change management. Beyond individual change delivery, the change team should also focus on how to deliver and land multiple initiatives at the same time. Most organisations need to drive change at a faster speed than previously and there is no luxury to only focus on one change at a time. How the team measures, tracks, and ‘traffic controls’ the multiple initiatives is crucial for its success.
To read more about managing a change portfolio visit our Change Portfolio Management section for a range of articles.
Change management structures and reporting lines are not just administrative choices; they can, in some ways, have a profound impact on an organization’s ability to achieve successful change outcomes. Experienced change management specialists must weigh the benefits and drawbacks of centralized and federated structures and align them with the specific needs of their organization. By doing so, they can maximize their ability to navigate the complexities of change and drive the organization toward a more agile, resilient, and adaptive future.
In this Change Practitioner Q&A series, we talk to change managers to ask them how they approach their work. This time we are talking to Annah Kaspar.
Change Compass: Describe yourself in 3 sentences
Annah: I’m curious and a little irreverent because I want to know everything (except, controversially, about football). I love to hear people’s stories and tend to empathise deeply. Happiness is going to places I’ve never been, and hanging out with kind and interesting people.
Change Compass: What has been the most challenging situation for you as a change practitioner? Tell us what happened and how you fared through it.
Annah: It was not due to a type of change or a stakeholder group. It was working with a Program Manager who believed change management was an independent addendum of sorts, separate from the ‘main work’ of technology and process. They didn’t see how project stream interdependencies have a direct correlation to the quality of change outcomes, or that the best change outcomes occur when all project team members collaborate. This played out dreadfully when the PM refused to prioritise a gap analysis, despite this being a dependency for identifying changes and impacts.
The PM was unfamiliar with the flow-on effects. Unclear changes and impacts create ineffective change strategies, poor forecasting of time/effort/budget, ineffective stakeholder engagement and misaligned key messages. This creates low confidence in project solutions and poor adoption and change experience.
How did I fare? Suffice it to say it wasn’t fun for me or the stakeholders, and by that time the root cause (no gap analysis) was an abstract concept. I believe delivery alignment within a project team is one key indicator for delivery effectiveness across an organisation. When there are transparent and integrated project delivery plans and open dialogue about how all project team members play a valued role, then I know we can deliver superb change outcomes.
Change Compass: What are the most useful things to focus on when you first start on a project, and why.
Annah: I make a beeline for the project Business Case, or if there isn’t one, I work with others to get clear on the project drivers, especially the benefits. This is the ultimate ‘why’. If there are no connections between the project’s Business Case and the organisation’s strategy then I look to create these, otherwise the project is in trouble before it has even started.
All project outcomes, scope and solutions flow from the case for change. The next most important is a High Level stakeholder scan and a High Level impact scan. This requires data, data, data! The more the better, as it increases the odds of making better judgments. So even though it’s early days, it’s never too soon to capture data, and for that, you need the whole project team onboard with the critical role of collecting and validating it so you can optimise the delivery approach.
Change Compass: As change practitioners we don’t often get to stick around to see the fruits of our labour, but from your experience what are the top factors in driving full change adoption?
Annah: I was once on the receiving side of change, so I have strong views about this! If these four things are covered, then you’ve achieved sustainability:
Active & visible leaders who advocate for the changes and put their reputation on the line to support success,
A project team who co-creates integrated delivery strategies with impacted people
Direct feedback loops for impacted people. These need in-built response mechanisms and complete psychological safety. No feedback should ever be punished or dismissed
Post-project monitoring of key performance indicators (team and individual) with corresponding rewards to reinforce desired results and support where required to uplift results
Change Compass: You’re known to remain calm when there is a lot of stress and project drama around. What is your advice for others?
Annah: My tough but fair mentor once advised me to think up worst-case scenarios to prepare for challenges. It seemed counter-intuitive and overly negative at first, and would stress me out more! But over time, I saw that I too fall into the category of a perfectly nice and reasonable person who is overwhelmed by fear.
This mostly leads to unhelpful perspectives (cognitive distortions or ‘thinking traps’), unhelpful behaviours (character assassination, shutting down, unnecessary displays of overt authority etc) and ultimately a toxic workplace culture. So in difficult situations, the habit of thinking through not-so-great scenarios, combined with mindfulness, is just a basic form of risk management.
I’m now a huge advocate for speaking up early about risks and applying risk management to all aspects of project delivery. It’s not about ticking boxes. It’s about protecting us by counter-intuitively facing discomfort, creating emotional space for ourselves and others to regulate responses, and removing thinking traps so we can make those trade-off decisions to solve a project drama.
Change Compass: Thanks for sharing your experiences and wisdom with us Annah!
Not too long ago, ‘change’ was predominantly linked to technological breakthroughs and process optimizations. Companies were driven to adopt new technologies and methodologies to stay ahead of the competition and meet the growing demands of consumers. The focus was on efficiency, productivity, and achieving higher profits through innovation. Terms like ‘digital transformation’ and ‘disruption’ frequently dominated boardroom discussions and industry conferences.
It has been that the focus was mostly on technology and process. These were considered the ‘hard’ levers that can be pulled to gain significant business improvements. Companies have been spending big on digitizing their business to save costs and investing in streamlining processes as well.
However, the narrative has shifted.
While technology continues to advance at an unprecedented pace, ‘change’ has taken on a more profound and holistic meaning. Today, companies and people, in general, are recognizing that the ability to adapt, evolve, and respond to the world’s myriad challenges is the true essence of progress.
One reason ‘change’ has become a prevailing buzzword is its resonance with a broader audience. Unlike technical jargon, it connects with people on a more personal level, emphasizing that change is not just about adopting new tools and strategies, but about embracing growth and personal development. It speaks to the capacity of individuals to navigate uncertainties, adjust their mindset, and embrace continuous learning.
Moreover, an increasing percentage of companies are aware that their success hinges on the collective ability of their employees to adapt and remain agile. Leaders now recognize that fostering a culture of change and learning is crucial for attracting and retaining talent, boosting employee morale, and nurturing innovation.
Looking around us, the word ‘change’ is everywhere. Not only are people a lot more comfortable talking about change, but there is also a general acknowledgment of change as an overt occurrence.
Advertising and Slogans: Embracing the Spirit of Change
Companies are also quick to adopt the word ‘change’ in their jargon. Here are some examples.
Cisco “Changing the Way We Work, Live, Play, and Learn”
Cisco, a multinational technology company, explicitly uses the word ‘change’ in its advertising and philosophy. The slogan “Changing the Way We Work, Live, Play, and Learn” highlights Cisco’s focus on transforming various aspects of modern life through their technological solutions.
2. Accenture – “Let there be change”
Accenture, a global consulting and professional services firm, uses the phrase “Let there be change” in its advertisements and marketing materials. This tagline reflects the company’s focus on driving transformative change for its clients and within the industries it serves.
3. T-Mobile – “Change starts now”
This encapsulates the company’s commitment to driving transformation and initiating positive changes in the telecommunications industry. The slogan suggests a sense of urgency and empowerment, encouraging customers to take action and embrace the benefits of a new era in mobile communication.
4. PwC – “Solving for global change starts with you”
This tagline conveys the idea that PwC believes individuals have the power to drive positive change on a global scale. It encourages people to take action and play an active role in addressing global challenges and making a difference. By emphasizing that “you” are the starting point for solving global change, PwC highlights the importance of individual responsibility, innovation, and collaboration in creating a more sustainable and equitable world.
5. University of Technology Sydney “Think. Change. Do.”
This represents UTS’s commitment to fostering a transformative learning experience that prepares its students to be active contributors to society and catalysts for positive change. However, please note that taglines can be updated or changed over time, so it’s a good idea to verify the most current information from UTS’s official sources.
The prevalence of ‘change’ in advertising and slogans reflects companies’ desire to connect with their audiences on a deeper level. By evoking the spirit of change, these companies emphasize their commitment to innovation, customer-centricity, and positive societal impact. They appeal to consumers who seek purpose-driven brands and are eager to embrace progress and sustainability.
Change as a Catalyst for Resilience
In an ever-changing world, adaptability is synonymous with resilience. Companies that can quickly adjust to market shifts, economic downturns, and unforeseen challenges are more likely to thrive. ‘Change’ has thus become the rallying cry for building organizations that are not only successful but also capable of weathering storms and bouncing back from setbacks.
What this means for change practitioners
Change practitioners are in an excellent position to help organisations to shift their change capability and deliver on business improvement objectives. Change is increasingly acknowledged across organisations as a critical competency. The focus on change is there and change practitioners should use this to spearhead the momentum.
To take things to the next level, change practitioners must complement the upscaling of digitization and AI in organisations by augmenting the same in their work. This means incorporating more machine learning and AI, more digitization, and greater usage of data.
Change practitioners should ensure data is a core part of their practice and a foundational way of formulating change approaches and recommendations to their business stakeholders. Business leaders will increasingly leverage data across all business facets in business management, enabled by digital solutions. In a similar manner, change practitioners must also leverage digital solutions to automate and increase the effectiveness of change work.
Within an increasingly complex change environment, change practitioners should be well-versed in collecting and analysing data and generating data insights, again leveraging digital solutions. With the promise of AI and machine learning, there is already plenty of current opportunities to improve the effectiveness of change work, today. The uptake of this is up to each change practitioner.
The rise of ‘change’ as a popular buzzword reflects the transformative times we live in. As technology continues to shape the world around us, it is the capability of human beings to adapt and evolve that has taken center stage. From technological advancements to human adaptability, ‘change’ has transcended industries and become a part of our collective consciousness. For change practitioners, this is an opportune time to use this momentum to ramp up their own adoption of the digitization of change work and use this to improve the effectiveness of change.