Change practitioner Q&A series: Alvaro Pacheco

Change practitioner Q&A series: Alvaro Pacheco

In this Change Practitioner Q&A Series we interview change practitioners to find out more about how they approach their work.

A bit about Alvaro …

Alvaro is a change and program management professional, with experience in diverse industries, from Energy & Utilities, Education, Tech, Professional services, and Financial Services. He has worked across programs in transformation, technology, restructures, risk, regulatory, and culture.

Change Compass: Hi Alvaro, describe yourself in 3 sentences

Alvaro:

Personally, I tend to be cheerful and optimistic.

Professionally, I’m quite driven. I love to play a big part in complex pieces of work, being accountable for end-to-end delivery.

I like to “zoom in and out”. Diving into particular task detail, and also being clear of its value in the organisation, community, and society as a whole.

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.

Alvaro:

The evolving nature of the change role and therefore the expectation on me as a practitioner. The definition of “change practitioner” is subjective across industries, teams, and projects; and thus, the “role” is not necessarily tied to a “title”. I’ve experienced this multiple times on projects.

Consider the overlap between the change analyst and business analyst roles, or between a change manager and a project manager. Since change management is not an isolated function, but rather is embedded across various teams, roles, activities, and artefacts (e.g., implementation plan), it’s not always easy to clarify roles and responsibilities. And this overlapping becomes more blurred when you add Agile ways of working/methodologies, product management, human-centred design, etc, which reminds me of The Change Compass articles on the role of Change Management in Agile.

These situations may be problematic if people in the team believe change management is an isolated function, or limit the practitioner to a particular methodology, potentially leading to “step on toes” situations – which I’m sure your readers are familiar with.

To overcome this, in the short term, I’ve spent time ensuring clarity of roles and responsibilities. Sometimes, this requires peer education on what change management is, which might even lead to some tough conversations. However, we should at least try to agree on common ground.

In the long-term (and I think we are heading there), industries, communities of practice, and professionals overall should move away from resourcing based on “titles” to evaluating “skills”. For example, rather than requesting a PM and a Change Lead, let’s think about the skills required for the management of such a piece vs the volume of expected effort.

Change Compass: What are the most critical and most useful things to focus on when you first start on a project, and why.

Alvaro:
I would say three things:

1) Data: From PMO/CMO, find out about the product, service, and industry… but to start, obtain an employee list with information on location, business areas, and roles. This will allow you to dissect the organisation to understand the complexity of each area, and how to best plan your engagement. All you need is the basic understanding of organisational design, and pivot table skills.

2) Governance: Change professionals are usually not accountable for this, but we should definitely be a part of it. It makes a difference when roles and responsibilities (from business sponsor to the intern), communication, and approval channels are clear. This includes agreed ways of working. I don’t mean unnecessary formal documentation or undesired and draining team-building workshops. A visual representation (accessible for contributors) with one or two conversations should suffice.

3) Project documentation as a product: Clear, honest, diligent, and accessible documentation on what you are working on, feeling comfortable to disclose the work in progress. If you treat your project documentation as a great product for your stakeholders (from the beginning), you’ll save a lot of time for them and yourself (and they will love you for it).

TIP: Look at the collaboration tools at the company. Some are better than others, I strongly recommend Confluence.

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?

Alvaro:

Discuss with your team and business owners the expected adoption and embedment outcomes from the beginning, including how they will be measured.

Include a decent timeframe within the implementation plan for adoption and embedment work (before and after Go Live). Do not squeeze this within “hyper-care”.

Understand the embedment systems at the organisation (if any). This may include existing forums, regular surveys, champions, and team leader/supervisor conversations within the business. Instead of creating “new” sessions, you can agree with the business to leverage these.

Adoption & embedment documentation tends to be a “tick the box” exercise. Those supervising change within organisations need to be more outcome-oriented, rather than auditors (checking if the change manager completed “x” or “y” artefact). This will promote a focus on the quality of delivery, over a focus on the completion of documentation. For change managers, it means moving from “I’ve done the embedment plan” to “I’ve co-designed an embedment plan with the stakeholders”.

Change Compass: You’ve been known as great at managing tough stakeholders. What’s your secret?

Alvaro:

The honest yet boring side of it is that I actually enjoy conflict resolution. Years back, I used to work at a restaurant and my peers would always ask me to resolve a situation with a tough customer. It doesn’t sound like helpful advice, right? Well, I guess my take is: practice conflict resolution! You may understand it but it gets better with experience. Other things are:

• Empathy: You never talk to a “title” (e.g., Executive Manager), they are a person, with a life behind their job.
• Transparency: Don’t play politics… it’s 2022 at the time of this article. Be yourself and say what and how things are.
• Vulnerability: Geez! This one is so important. Admitting you (or what you represent) might be wrong (or can be better) is extremely powerful. Build trust by being human.

Change Compass: If you could alter the change management practice for the better, what would you want to see happen?

Alvaro:

I would love to see a focus on skills, not titles or fixed “change methodologies”. This also includes seeing change as embedded across roles, artifacts, and activities, not as an isolated function.

Skills for a change practitioner must include strong project management, as well as data analysis to drive decisions in engagement, overall timing, and measurement. This includes companies using integrated tools to understand change across the organisation, as well as change practitioners understanding how to leverage them.

Finally, change management institutions and communities of practice must push to better integrate change management within project management methodologies. For example, as part of Prince 2 or Safe Scrum. There’s no need for a “change role”, but many aspects are missed (or unclear).

Why change saturation is a pandemic for most large organisations

Why change saturation is a pandemic for most large organisations

Change saturation is talked about as one of top key challenges facing organisations as the pace of change is dialled up.  Several surveys have indicated the seriousness of change saturation for change practitioners and senior leaders.  Several Prosci surveys have indicated the importance of change saturation for a large percentage of companies.  There is also plenty of articles that focus on change saturation.

But why is change saturation happening and what is the cause of it?  Why is it not talked about in the past and why now?

Pace of technology change

We can see all around us that the pace of technology change is speeding up.  In the 1980s most people did not have access to the computer.  Now there are computing features and devices on our bodies, on our laps, on our desks, at every shop and office, etc.  In fact, it is hard to think of a world where these features are taken away from us.  Not just Generation Z, but most of us in other generations would also agree.

The role of AI and machine learning of late has driven significant investment and change in organisations.  This involves the power of AI to improve productivity and carry out existing work tasks at a significantly improved quality and pace than was previously imaginable.  There are not many large organisations that are not leveraging this as a competitive differentiator.

Pace of innovation

Though technology has driven massive change at an increasing speed in impacting our lives, a key call out on top of this is the pace of innovation.  Technical changes are only valuable if they are used by people.  The ability for us to apply technical advancements to a wide range of human needs is what creates innovation.  Techology firms are constantly looking for ways to improve the human experience.  Now, we are seeing this driven by hundreds of millions of startups around the world.  This is the latest force that challenges existing ways of doing things to reinvent and improve existing business models and improve how we work and live.

Culture lag

“The term cultural lag refers to the notion that culture takes time to catch up with technological innovations, and the resulting social problems that are caused by this lag. In other words, cultural lag occurs whenever there is an unequal rate of change between different parts of culture causing a gap between material and non-material culture.” (Wikipedia).  

Some organisations and industries are running faster to take up, transform and reap the benefits of change. Technology firms tend to move fast and used to significant transformations in business models and ways of working.  Other organisations may be less effective and change at a slower pace.  Even within organisations, some departments seem to be faster at adopting change than others.  The organisational culture differences can be quite stark.  The leadership capability, the mindset, hierarchy structures, the operational processes, levels of agility and work approach all make up the cultural behaviours between the haves and have nots.

 Large companies are by design siloed

Large organisations are by design a series of siloed departments.  Depending the organisation structure it could be that each department is a separate kingdom with very different cultural traits and ways of working than other departments.  Or, it could be countries that are operating differently.  It could also be vertical or functional lines of grouping employees that shape the way people work.  

Yes, there are ways in which large organistions can be designed to be less siloed.  For example, through having the right operating and alignment processes across departments and teams it is possible to reduce this silo.  Centres of excellence groups can act to connect disparate functional workers across the organisations without a formalised reporting structure.  For example, Business Analysts that may sit in different departments.  Having the right town halls or sharing forums can also help to share the work across a large number of teams.  Some multinationals are particularly good at doing this to share best practices and reduce waste.

Irrespective of how large organisations are structured, for most, initiatives are driven by project teams.  Each project team has its own challenges, stakeholders, budgets, timelines and business pressures.  By design each project team is a silo.  If there are 50 projects in an organisation then there are 50 silos.  Even if all project teams report to one division, for example a transformation office, there are still challenges in ‘integrating’ the work across projects.

Now you can see why large organisations are really feeling the pinch in change saturation.  With the increasing speed of industry and technology changes come an increasing number of changes in the organisation.  The increased volume of change as well as increased speed of change results in the feeling of change saturation in employees.  Sure, improved change capability can help in some situations in the uptake of larger volumes of change.  However, people capacity is limited and there is only so much human change bandwidth within any given time.

Examples of data visualisation from The Change Compass

The power of data in addressing saturation

Having a good initiative portfolio management system may help to connect the dots from a portfolio and project management perspective.  Data provides visibility and shows the true picture of what is happening, allowing visualisation of what were only felt, into logical and precise factors of the what, why and how of the changes.

However, portfolio management systems only tend to focus on the picture from a project perspective.  This includes:

  • Project costs
  • Project timelines
  • Project resourcing
  • Project benefits and tracking

However, what changes mean to the business and the organisations is a very different picture than what it means to project/transformation teams.  The picture for the ‘receivers of change’ versus the ‘drivers of change’.  Having a robust picture for the drivers of change (PMO, senior leaders, project teams, etc.) is critical and necessary.  But it does not inform the organisation of what the journey looks like for employees to undergo the various changes in the organisations. 

The picture of the ‘receivers of change’ is the picture that is required to examine if there is change saturation, the extent of it and what to do about it.  This includes data such as:

  • People change impact volume, severity, timeline
  • The who, when, how, what of people change impact
  • Type of people impact, whether employee, customer or partner impacts

Most organisations do not collect these types of data.  Some change management teams manually create heatmaps to support this.  However, they only capture a portion of the data listed above.  Also, these are highly manual and usually not sufficiently robust to support the level of detailed required in business decision making on prioritisation and sequencing.

There lies the dilemma for large organisations.  Significant amounts of investments are made in transformation.  Significant benefits are anticipated.  However, research shows that a lot of transformation efforts do not reach anywhere close to their targets.  With increasing volumes of change, orchestrating the system across initiatives is key.  And the missing link is in the people impact component to power the success of transformations through data.

By utilising digital means of capturing, farming and visualising change impact data, organisations can solve a range of business problems linked to change saturation.  Data can inform and predict:

  • Employee sentiments toward change
  • People capacity
  • Operational performance
  • A number of project, business and benefit risks
  • Change adoption and progress tracking
  • Opportunity for better prioritisation and sequencing of releases

To read up more about managing a change portfolio, check out our article The Ultimate Guide to Managing Change Portfolio.

If you would like to discuss more about how to leverage digital solutions to solve change saturation risks click here.

The Ultimate Guide to Measuring Change – Part 2

The Ultimate Guide to Measuring Change – Part 2

Measuring change is not just an activity, it is about achieving a change outcome.  The particular outcome can range from understanding how ready stakeholders are for the change, how change mature they are, whether they have adopted the change, or whether they have the capacity for change.  Achieving this change outcome is not just about selecting the right measure or collecting the right data.  Even after analysing the data and interpreting the results, there is a number of steps required to achieve the targeted change outcome.

In the first part of ‘The Ultimate Guide to Measuring Change’ the focus is on outlining the various areas in which change may be measured.  These include initiative-based change management measures such as training evaluation or communications effectiveness.  Non-initiative-based change management measures include change leadership assessment, change saturation assessment or change maturity assessment.

In this part 2 of the same topic, we focus on the various steps involved in achieving your change outcome when you embark on your change measurement exercise.  So, you have already selected the change management measures.  You know how the measurement works and how to collect the data.  What next?

Dashboard design

Developing a good dashboard can make or break the success of your initiative.  A good dashboard draws the attention of your stakeholders to the right areas of focus and can prompt action.  As your stakeholders receive ongoing feedback on how the measures are tracking in the dashboard, this provides them with evidence of whether any actions they have taken have influenced the measures.

On the other hand, a badly designed dashboard can be overwhelming, difficult to understand, and most importantly do not prompt the right attention and action required from stakeholders.  In this case, the dashboard may be skimmed over by stakeholders and not taken seriously.  This is absolutely what we want to avoid.

Some key considerations in designing dashboards

  1. Focus on the critical few.  More is not better when it comes to dashboard design.  The dashboard should comprise of key measures that tell a good picture (not necessarily a thorough one) of what is happening and if things are on track.  For example, if you would like to present a readiness dashboard, key measures could be:
  • Overall readiness score
  • Readiness by business unit
  • Readiness by roles
  • Training completion rates
  • Yammer chat trends

2. Determining visual formats in your dashboard.  Not all data visualisation formats are created equally.  Some tend to be harder for users to understand than others.  Overly colourful charts can also distract the user from focusing on what you want him/her to focus on.  

A key question you should always ask yourself is ‘can the audience understand what this chart is showing in 5 seconds without context’.  This makes it challenging, right?  This is exactly what we need to aim for to make it easy for the audience.

For more information and tips on choosing the right visual formats, visit our article Making an impact with change management charts.

3. Create a balance of different types of measures that, in total, capture core aspects of what the audience would like to find out about.  For example, in the above example, there is a balance of measures such as surveys, stakeholder ratings during meetings, completion rates and trend analysis.  

Your dashboard could also have a mix of visuals from charts, figures, quotes, insights, and data tables.  It does not always need to be in the form of charts alone.

4. Experiment with different types of visuals and see which ones are the most appealing in terms of generating insight and action from your stakeholders.  Depending on the stakeholders you work with, some data visualisation formats may not resonate as much as others.  So it may take experimenting to figure out the most impactful set for your particular stakeholders.

5. Allow the user to drill through the data, where possible.  When you present the dashboard to your stakeholders, this will naturally prompt a series of questions and discussions.  Essentially, by allowing drill-through of the data, you are answering questions around ‘why’.

Common questions include what data comprise this component?  Real examples could be ‘why is this business unit not ready for the change’, ‘why is the training completion so low for last month’, and ‘why are stakeholders not confident about our overall readiness’.  To facilitate queries such as these, it is always very helpful to be able to click into the data points that comprise a particular chart. 

6. Your dashboard should form an overall picture of the story you are trying to tell on a regular basis.  Designing any dashboard requires you to be clear about the key story you are trying to tell to your stakeholders.  Some potential stories could be:

  • We are slowly getting ready for this change, but not quite there yet
  • Certain business units or roles are finding this change challenging and ongoing support and engagement is required to overcome their potential resistance
  • We are incrementally making headways to engage the impacted employees, but some are more engaged than others
  • We have not made significant grounds in our change maturity, though we are laying the right foundations to support the shift

For more information on this check out our article The ultimate guide to storytelling with change management data.

7. Automating dashboard data collection.  If you are running a less complex initiative or in a smaller organisation it may make sense to resort to Excel to create dashboards.  Many also use Tableau or Power BI.  However, both can be quite technical and would require time and effort to set up and use.  Experts in Tableau and Power BI within the organisation may likely be pulled into multiple demands already.  Leveraging off-the-shelf data visualisation platforms such as The Change Compass may provide a way to save significant time to enable plug-and-play options for complex change environments.  In this case, no expert knowledge is required to set up or maintain dashboards.

Making recommendations

So you’ve selected the change management measures, created the dashboard, and allowed the ability to drill-through the data as needed.  The most important next step is to prepare your recommendations.  You already have the what, the why, and now it’s time to answer the ‘so what’.  This is the part where you deliver your biggest value and make recommendations to improve the current status.

There are several things to consider in making your recommendations:

  1. The recommendations should be very logical and a natural extension of the metrics and results you’ve presented.  It should almost be a ‘no-brainer’ for your stakeholders in your recommendations.  On the other hand, if your recommendation is not substantiated by the metrics you’ve just presented, or there is data missing, your stakeholders may easily challenge the basis of your recommendations.
  2. Practice writing out the reasoning for your recommendations to test its deductive and logical reasoning.  Break this down into a step-by-step series of premises in which you can analyse and ‘prove’ the recommendation where possible.

For example:

  • The Finance department has the lowest training completion rate
  • Many participants from Finance commented that they did not understand why they are doing the training.
  • There seem to be more questions about the initiative from Finance employees on Yammer
  • The number of engagement sessions held in Finance is lower than in other departments
  • Overall readiness scores for Finance are also lower than other departments
  • Workload in Finance is not high during readiness survey nor during the training rollout
  • The last employee engagement surveys showed that Finance employees had lower engagement scores than other departments
  • Your recommendation:  Interview select Finance employees to understand why they are less engaged.  Since it’s unlikely due to workload, it may be due to leaders not putting the time and focus to engage employees about this initiative.  As a result, there is less engagement in the Finance department.  So the premise that needs to be tested is if the lower engagement is due to Finance leadership not engaging the group about the initiative.

The key call out here is to be able to sequence together a series of deductions that lead to the recommendation.  Each data visualisation shown is a step in this deduction that leads the user to agree with your recommendation.

3. Your recommendation must be actionable, and helps to move the needle toward improving the change outcome.  It should not be just a hypothesis, a conclusion or worse, an opinion.  It must be something that can be acted on by someone.  For example, a set of actions to remediate the change engagement, to motivate leaders to resolve employee resistance, to celebrate success with the team in the current progress, etc.

Ensuring data integrity

There is nothing worse than standing in front of your audience and being challenged by the data you are presenting because of data integrity.  If you are caught in the position of presenting data that is not accurate then you may only have a small window of opportunity to salvage your reputation.  To avoid this, ensure you have done your homework on the integrity of the data.

There are several things you can do in ensuring data integrity:

  1. Look for patterns that may not make sense.  There are many ways in which you can easily zoom in on potential errors by checking:
    • Variance from previous data, e.g. Is there an unusual deviation from previous months’ report that may not make sense in terms of engagement scores?
    • All data points have been updated, e.g. Are you missing any survey data from particular business units? Have all initiative impacts been updated?
    • Patterns that may not make sense, e.g. You would have expected that Marketing would be the less change ready but the data suggests they are on-par with other business units.  This may prompt additional investigation
    • Drill-through significant findings to check that it makes sense.  E.g. The bar chart shows that March has the highest impact level on the business.  Drill into March data to double-check that this matches the observation and that it is not a chart error.
  2. Regular data audits.  If your dashboard will be presented every month, aim to start auditing your data at least a few days before the presentation to leave enough time to do any follow-up on chasing the right data.
  3. Send your dashboard to a ‘friendly stakeholder’ whom you can confide in without being challenged or critiqued.  Ask the stakeholder for feedback to check if there is any glaring error and if the data makes sense.

Storytelling

Having a set of metrics presented in a dashboard is exactly what it is … a set of data.  It may be presented in a way that is easy to read and easy to understand.  However, the purpose of dashboards is so that they can be presented and discussed so as to facilitate regular monitoring and decision-making.  This means that to really get the full impact out of the dashboards you need to be able to tell compelling stories that will grab the attention of your stakeholders and motivate them into action.

If you are making a full presentation, then you may want to follow the following sequence:

1. Key summary of findings and recommendations

This is the Barbara Minto pyramid model of starting with a quick summary of all your points including recommendations to quickly grab the attention of your audience.  After this, they will be clear in terms of what you will be talking about in your segment.  This is a form of executive summary and is very effective for senior executives who may have a low attention span and can easily get lost in the details.

2. Key findings and insights

Walk through your key findings and insights.  Ideally, stick to no more than 3 major points.  This is because with too many points the audience is unlikely to remember them and may be lost in the details.  If you have a lot to talk about, group them into themes so that this makes it easy for your audience to understand and remember.  Again, aim for no more than 3 themes if possible.

3. Why – substantiated by data

This is probably the hardest part to facilitate because it is likely that your audience may want to dive straight into the details of the data and start to ask all kinds of questions.  You may want to guide the conversation by telling the audience exactly the flow of what you will be going through to minimise any major disruptions in your storytelling.  

Avoid overwhelming your audience with too much data.  A part of your storytelling is to balance having just enough data to support your observations and lead them to agree with your recommendations in the next step. 

Balance discussion with your overall storytelling flow by allowing time and space for reflection and questions.  To maximise engagement, prompt certain members of your audience to see if the data resonates.  This can add weight to what you are presenting.  

4. Recommendations

If you are making a regular update at a recurring meeting such as a monthly planning meeting, committee meeting, or change governance meeting, then this could be the sequence that you will be following.  In this context, you may have limited time to highlight key observations and may not have enough time to dive into the details of all the data.  The focus is for a short and sharp call out of key findings, highlighting data that supports your observations, followed by a logical set of recommendations that are action-based.

This is the sequence for your presentation for updates:

  1. Key findings and observations
  2. What is new and different since the last meeting, or what trends to note
  3. Why – substantiated by data
  4. Recommendations

Change governance

It would be great if you can easily leverage existing meetings and business routines to incorporate your charts and dashboards so that they can be used.  However, it could be that existing meeting chairpersons do not currently see the value or that there is no current meeting that could serve this purpose.  Getting the value out of your dataset means that you need to think about the overall system of change governance.

If you are working in 1 project you can leverage existing project reporting rhythms such as monthly meetings for business stakeholders or meetings with impacted business units, project team and the project sponsor.  If you find that certain important stakeholders may not have a way to receive this information or that they should be involved in decision-making, you may need to work with your project manager and project sponsor to address this gap. 

Ensuring that your change metrics are used in the right change governance forums may take time to influence.  Often the ‘gatekeeper’ of the forums may not be focused on change management and be reluctant to provide additional agenda within an already crowded meeting.

To influence and get your metrics in the key decision-making forums, depending on your organisation, try influencing these key stakeholders:

  • Portfolio manager/PMO
  • Project managers/project sponsors
  • Senior leaders from impacted businesses that see the value of your change metrics
  • Business planning/Strategy managers that may be able to leverage your change data for better planning
  • Risk partners who are responsible for influencing the business.  They may be particularly interested in risk-in-change 
  • HR business partners who may be concerned about people capacity, engagement, and sentiments

Building capability in change analytics

Not all of your stakeholders will understand the data you are presenting straight away.  Especially in the beginning, it could take a bit of time to induct them to what the data is showing, how to interpret it and the significance of the data.  Some stakeholders may want to spend most of the session critiquing and diving into the details of the data.  Others may want to focus on parts of the data that are not what you want them to focus on.  Or, it could be that they need more coaching and support to decipher what the dashboard is telling them.  Be aware and ready to pre-empt and guide the flow of the conversation.

To build the capability in change analytics within your organisation:

  1. Start by calling out the fact that you are presenting a new set of data and that you will be focused on spending time to support the audience in understanding and interpreting the data in the beginning
  2. Use your business rhythms and regular meetings/committees to start your meeting segment by walking through step by step the art of interpreting the data
  3. Provide coaching or drop-in sessions for a broader set of stakeholders to provide guidance as needed
  4. Create an intranet page for the program or portfolio where stakeholders can access the data and ‘self-help’ in building their change analytics capability 

To read up more about building capability in change analytics visit our article How to Build Change Analytics Capability.

The power of change orchestration

The power of change orchestration

Most of what you read about change is only concerned with the various stakeholders within one singular change journey. This ranges from various change methodologies to techniques and the experience of change, including the ‘change curve’ that dips after go-live and then slowly rises up. Is this really the only value of change? Are we only adding value one change at a time?

In managing change at a program or portfolio level we are overseeing multiple changes. The focus is no longer in focusing on the tactics and execution of individual changes. Instead, the focus is on how to get the maximum organisational impact to maximise value and realise maximum benefits. This is in done in conjunction with protecting the business-as-usual activities and overall business performance.

The ultimate value of change management is in orchestrating change across the organisation. This is not just in terms of change programs, but orchestrating how other departments and business units handle change. Change does not just happen in a project setting, since it is also led by various departments as a part of general business improvement.

Download our table to understand more about how to influence and orchestrate change across the organisation using The Change Compass. The power is in using data to drive visibility, clarity, and understanding of how change impacts not just our employees, but also organisational partners, and customers. In this way, business units such as Strategy, Marketing, HR, Corporate Affairs, and Operations all have a role to play in orchestrating change.

Click here to download our table about change orchestration.

Win over stakeholders with a single view of change in weeks

Win over stakeholders with a single view of change in weeks

We’ve all heard about how change is the only constant and that change is intensifying and not going away. On top of increasing digitisation, we have Covid, extreme weather disruptions as well as other company changes. Not all changes can be planned for. Change is a balancing act, requiring significant skill and management. The analogy comes to mind of a spinning plate circus act. Each plate needs attention and constant spinning. The problem is when you have 10, 50, or 100+ these plates, it becomes almost impossible to pay attention to every single one across the company.

This is exactly why it is so critical to have a single view of change. When you are only spinning a few plates you can easily see them all and have enough attention and bandwidth to ensure they are all spinning effectively. When the number and intensity of change multiples, this becomes tricky. Without a single view of change, how can any organisation manage change across the board? This is exactly the problem.

For most companies, each project team is organised as a separate team, with a separate set of stakeholders. Multiply this by the number of projects and you get the problem. The number of silos that is each project creates significant complexity for the organisations. These include:

  1. At any one time, there will be multiple projects impacting the same part of the business. Since each project is only focused about its own activities, they are mostly not aware of project activities from other projects that are impacting the same stakeholders.
  2. For the same group of stakeholders there may be very different ways of engagement and change journeys required. Too many different types of change can make it difficult for the impacted stakeholders to digest. Also, these changes, when combined, may or may not support the business objectives of that particular part of the business.
  3. Some PMOs try to contain this complexity by creating different portfolios in which to group projects. The thinking is that each of the portfolio managers can manage a set of projects and can try to help join the dots where possible to coordinate the various releases and implementation of projects within each portfolio. However, managing too many portfolios can create even more complexity and thereby be less agile for the organisation. Also, most project portfolio managers are typically focused more on technical activities and releases, and less on resultant people impacts.

Why create a single view of change?

1. Change saturation and limited capacity

The first reason for creating a single view of change is to assess the risk for and avoid change saturation. There is evidence from several surveys including that from Prosci showing that change saturation/fatigue is one of the biggest challenges for organisations in undergoing change. The pressure to change fast and still maintain business performance is real and impacts a wide range of industries.

Research highlighting change fatigue as a key change challenge

2. Business capacity.

Even if there was not a risk of change saturation and fatigue, there is constantly a challenge of limited business capacity to undergo change versus ‘keeping the lights on’ activities, or on executing business-as-usual tasks. This includes both the capacity to undergo change for those impacted by the change, and also for subject-matter-experts from the business who may be pulled by multiple projects and thereby have limited bandwidth.

3. Change portfolio management

The first 2 points are of a business lense, in terms of business-related change impacts across projects. However, from a change portfolio perspective, it also makes sense to have a single view of change to better manage a change portfolio.

What is offered by a single view of change that is meeting a gap with the data captured by existing PMO is, change impact. This change impact includes types of stakeholders, roles, the parts of the organisations, and how they are impacted by change. Data may capture the extent of the change effort required, the time required to undergo change activities, and even behaviours required as a part of the transformation.

With a single view of change, the project portfolio can be better managed in terms of:

  • Project change resource allocation
  • Project release coordination and harmonisation and how they impact stakeholders
  • Change execution design across projects
  • Examine opportunities to create ‘change bundles’ where it makes sense, or to break down change releases into smaller pieces if that is a better fit for the business
  • Monitor operational risks across change releases

4.Change adoption

The ultimate goal of creating a single view of change is to maximise change adoption across the board. An impacted stakeholder group is likely going to experience multiple changes. If there is a way to design a change adoption process that makes it easier for the stakeholders it will significantly increase the likelihood of achieving full change adoption.

As a real example, at a major bank, the same group of stakeholders was asked by one project lead by the Product division to prepare for the end of life of a credit card. They were asked to tell customers that this card will not only be sold after a certain date. On the other hand, another project led by Marketing was telling the same groups of stakeholders to sell more of this credit card to try and meet their quarterly target. Needless to say, this type of confusing message will not serve well to achieve any of the project change adoption targets.

5. Risk in change

Change risk management is an emerging discipline and growing in importance for Chief Risk Officers. This is particularly the case for financial services corporations. Risk in change is about how the organisation is managing the risks with undergoing the committed changes in a way that allows them to operate safely. A key challenge is the visibility of the various changes presented in a way that allows the business to visualise these changes to be able to see the associated risks. A single view of change can add significant value from a risk lens.

If having a single view of change is so critical why is it that not more organisations have this? Here are some key reasons:

  1. Perceived difficulty in capturing a single view of change. Most change practitioners will think of the vast number of projects that need to be engaged to create this view and the time it takes to do this.
  2. How to capture the single view of change. With the various types of data available in each initiative some get overwhelmed and are not able to pinpoint exactly what information is required to be captured.
  3. How to report on a single view of change. Most opt for a simple traffic light showing red, amber, and green of the varying levels of impact of each project. The problem is that this is not always based on data (instead, based on personal judgement), and is often not quite granular enough to make this useful.

One of the key benefits of a single view of change is that it is critical in supporting the work of managing a change portfolio to make the right decisions to manage change holistically. To find out more about how to calculate the financial benefit of managing a change portfolio visit our article here.

Solution on building a single view of change quickly

There are several approaches to building a single view of change quickly. As a first step, it’s important to define what outcome is required and how the artifacts might be used to make impactful business decisions. Focus on capturing the impact of change per initiative as a starter, detailing different levels of impact of the initiative based on actual impact activities of each initiative, versus using high-level personal judgment (which may be hard to defend in front of senior managers).

1. Focus on one part of the business to capture a single view of change

It’s important to note that a single view of change should always be showing the view from the business stakeholders’ perspective, versus from a project/program perspective. A way to kickstart the process with a more achievable target is to select one part of the business to start focusing on. Ideally, choose a part of the business that is concerned about change volume and would like to use the reports developed with a single view of change.

Ensure you get these stakeholders onboard, and involve those who ‘feel the pain’ of change complexity. These stakeholders can be your change champions in supporting the development and utilisation of a single view of change.

2. Focus on a smaller set of initiatives as a start

Again, rather than trying to capture every initiative in one go, start by selecting a group of initiatives, either within a portfolio or a large program. It can also be that you start by focusing on the more ‘strategic initiatives that are of higher visibility to stakeholders. These initiatives are also easier to define.

3. Conduct workshops to quickly gather data

One of the best ways to collect data quickly is to gather these in structured workshops. In each of the workshops you have a representative from each project attending, either a change manager or a project manager. In the workshop you talk through the data you are trying to capture and work with the group to capture them. During the session, it is also a good idea to view the data collected and clarify as needed to ensure the data is spot on.

It is a good idea prior to the workshop to provide a simple template for participants to do the pre-work, identifying the change impact activities for their respective projects. Be clear in defining what these change impact activities mean, providing examples to show them the types of data you are after.

Here is a sample timeline for creating a single view of change:

Week 1: Align with sponsors and senior stakeholders on the ‘why’ of creating a single view of change
Week 2-3: Conduct workshops to collate data cross initiatives
Week 4: Create data visualisation and share with stakeholders

3. Utilise digital tools to automate and speed up the process

Using an Excel spreadsheet may be a good way to go in the beginning, but for organisations that have a digital focus, leveraging digital tools make perfect sense. Using change management tools that help you piece together a single view of change with all the fields and reports already built can save significant time and effort. With the ease to support for ongoing data collection, and reporting significant time and resources are saved. In addition, a good tool can help provide additional insight into what is happening to the organisation that manual ways may not generate. The ability to add significant value through data-backed insight that can significantly influence change implementation is one of the key advantages of leveraging a digital tool.

Different examples of single view of change visualization

Moreover, a single view of change should not a static artifact. Instead, it should be a live data source that is constantly changing as the organisation undergoes various changes. In a fast-paced change environment, it is even more critical to have the right digital tool to provide clear tracking and reporting.

In conclusion, creating a single view of change can be one of the most value-adding work that the change practitioner can undertake. If done right, it can make a significant impact on the overall change portfolio and change adoption across initiatives. Though, there is work involved in gathering the data, by structuring the work through workshops the work can be done within weeks. A single view of change should not be a one-off artifact. Instead, it should be an ongoing process in which to constantly generate engaging and impactful data visualisations to influence business insight and decision making.

If you are about to embark on creating a single view of change and are thinking about whether to or how to leverage a digital offering to support your efforts reach out and have a chat with us.