My stakeholders are asking for single view of change, but are really after something else

My stakeholders are asking for single view of change, but are really after something else

The term “single view of change” is starting to gain more popularity and organisations are starting to understand why they need this and what it looks like.  The term refers to an artifact that shows the different change initiatives being mapped together.  This is usually presented in a calendar format that shows when the initiatives will impact the organisation over time.  In this article, we will look closely at what the single view of change is, what stakeholders are looking for in this artifact and how to use it.

Typical formats for single view of change

  • Red, amber and green cells for each project across time
  • Business unit based heatmap across time

Here are some examples from The Change Compass as reference.

Different views may be selected for the Heatmap

The data may be grouped/ordered by different fields (Go-Live is shown as a star)

To read up more about Heatmap formats and what to look out for read Why Heatmaps are not the bet way to make change decisions.

Recent trends

In the past year there has been increasing interest from organisations talking about single view of change (SVOC) and wanting to derive this view.  What we’ve observed at The Change Compass are the following trends:

  1. Senior managers or executives are often the ones who are requesting the SVOC.  
  2. This usually arises as the number of change initiatives starts to increase and there is feedback that there could be too much change for employees to handle or change fatigue.  This is not a surprise given the companies are already struggling to keep up with competitive, technology, and regulatory changes.  Covid has added to these changes and compounded the overall change load.
  3. Senior managers are after data to make decisions on.  And managing change is no exception.  Gone are the days when managers can make decisions based on opinions and hunches.  With Covid, there are employees working remotely and so performance needs to be managed based on data – there is simply no other way.  In a similar vein, change data is integral to making business decisions.

An example of stakeholders requesting SVOC

When I was the Head of Change at National Australia Bank there was a strong focus on deriving a single view of change.  This was not always the case.  There were constant complaints from employees that there was too much change.  On the other hand, senior managers often responded with “we’re still able to run the business and the business has not broken, so let’s keep going”.

One of the key reasons that senior managers were requesting SVOC was that initiatives are by design in silos.  Each initiative team designs the initiative independent of other initiatives.  From a technical perspective, there are various architects who are accountable for advising on what the technology stack should look like and what is in the best interest of the organisation across initiatives.  However, from a people change perspective there were no practices in which changes across the board are harmonised and sequenced.

Eventually, at National Australia Bank we built a clunky way of capturing change impact data that did meet stakeholder needs. My realisation was that stakeholders that request SVOC were not after the artifacts per se.  In fact what they were after most were:

  • Determining when there would be too much change saturation leading to change fatigue
  • Ability to determine what needs to be moved and how/when initiatives can be moved if there is contention
  • Understanding key risks that could arise in executing on a range of change initiatives that could disrupt the business or impact initiative benefit realisation
  • Understanding what change activities are organised and how they are impacting business-as-usual operations so that effective resourcing can be in place

What this means is that stakeholders are asking for SVOC, when they are really asking for a way to manage the change portfolio in a way that reduces risk for the organisation and maximise benefits targeted.  Managing change at a portfolio level is a new concept and discipline for most organisations.

Change portfolio management takes time and capability to evolve and grow into in each organisation.  To read up more about how to manage a change portfolio read The Ultimate Guide to Change Portfolio Management and How to Better Manage a Change Portfolio Infographic.

Lessons learnt across different organisations

Over the years in working with organisations through The Change Compass, I’ve noticed the following trends across different organisations when it comes to creating and using SVOC.

  • Change saturation can mean different things to different stakeholders.  This reflects on the different parts of change management focus areas for organisations.  Some focus on the humanistic aspects of change for individuals.  This includes the personal experience and stress of change fatigue.  Others focus on the impacts of business performance and resourcing.
  • Some of the presented reasons for change saturation
    1. “Our employees tell us there is too much change”.  This needs to be carefully considered when providing feedback to senior managers.  Some could be skeptical of the feedback and respond with comments such as “there are always complaints about too much change”.  A balanced view including employee feedback as well as other business indicators would be advised.  For example, efficiency levels or absenteeism.
    2. Not adopting a change portfolio approach – Just seeing the risks and business problems with SVOC will not necessarily resolve the issues.  It is about making business decisions with the information that will create impact.
    3. Poor portfolio management – If this is the reason then most companies have poor portfolio management because change portfolio management is still in its infancy for most organisations.
    4. Responses of execs determine the outcomes – some still insist on persisting with change in the face of change saturation.  From what we have seen a lot of senior managers usually learn from the aftermath of change saturation before they will make decisions to avoid it in the first place.  Help your senior managers to understand the consequences and what it means to business data.  Of course, the more detailed data you can provide the more convincing your argument is going to be.
  • Because companies haven’t invested in people capability – Having better change capability can impact the way employees perceive and undergo the change journey.  More change mature teams tends to be able to absorb more and faster changes than those who are less mature.  However, change maturity takes time and investment to build and is not a lever that can be pulled overnight.
    • Not effectively setting expectations and agenda for what is coming.  Setting clear expectations is the first step. Without knowing what changes to expect the change outcome could be impacted.  However, this is only one part of the change equation.  Having achieved clarity of expectation is just the first step.  There are lots of other steps to take to create an effective change journey. 
    • External factors affecting the load of change may not be easily filtered by the organisation.  Lots of organisations are facing multiple impacts of change from different arenas, technology, regulations, competition, and other industry changes.  In many cases, the changes piled on top of each other creating a significant change load that cannot be easily moved out.  In this case, organisations need to be realistic about what can be achieved given this load of change.  Would investing in capability help to lift the ability to undergo a heightened change volume?  Can we package changes so that they are more streamlined and integrated, and thereby reducing cognitive load for impacted employees?

The role of change practitioners

Through using a SVOC change practitioners can play different roles in adding value to the organisation.

  • Change portfolio management:  Managing a portfolio from a change impact perspective is a role that can add significant value.  The benefits of adopting a portfolio approach can result in initiatives being harmonised.  From the user perspective, changes are better linked and grouped versus being isolated from each other.
  • Architecting and designing delivery:  With better alignment and synchronisation, initiative rollout can be better designed as a whole, with a convincing set of strategies and themes that make sense for impacted employees.
  • Executive consultation and influencing:  Armed with data it is much easier to influence senior executives.  The trick is to select the few data visualisations that tell the story of key risks to the organisation, and the size of the problems involved.  This also needs to be paired with recommended solutions.
  • Business change capability building – With SVOC change capability building is not just about rolling out generic skills, but targeted content delivered at the right junctures to equip the business with the right skills to be better equipped for a targeted set of changes

Next steps

Are you working on a SVOC?  Do you have questions? If you would like to talk to us to understand how others have fared in their SVOC journeys click the following button to book time.  We’re happy to share with you some of the tips and tricks in deriving SVOC.

How to measure change saturation

How to measure change saturation

Covid has amongst other things brought on an accelerated change agenda for a lot of organisations.  What were previously thought to be 1 to 5 year horizons of change suddenly became an immediate change.  Not only is working from home a norm for a lot of organisations but the struggle for enterprises to survive and stay relevant in the new norm means more changes.  The normal equilibrium for a lot of these organisations is one that consumes a smaller number of changes at any one time.  Suddenly, with the increased number of changes this leads to change saturation.

Think of change saturation as a cup that fills up.  The size of the cup is the change capacity.  With limited capacity there is only so much volume that is inherent.  When the cup overflows the changes don’t stick and simply fall by the waist side.

What impacts an organisation’s change capacity?

1.Change leadership

Leaders can have significant influence on the organisation.  Also, change leadership is a significant part of how change is managed and delivered.  Effective change leadership can build on the capability of teams to be more agile and capable of absorbing more changes.  Effective change leadership can also help to maximise how optimal the change is socialised and implemented, and therefore how it lands.

2. Change capability

The organisation’s change capability is one of the most important factors in determining their change capacity.  Think of agile startup organisations that are constantly pivoting, introducing new operating models, products and services.  This is part of their cultural norm.  Other organisations that maybe less agile can also develop some of these capabilities through experience and development.

3. Nature of change

Not all types of changes are the same.  Typically, a lot of the changes driven by senior leaders are about improving the bottom line or top line, improving customer experience or improving efficiency.  Some are more complex changes requiring significant change journeys.  Others may even be inherently ‘negatively perceived’ such as organisational restructuring and layoffs.  However, there are also changes that are inherently seen as benefiting the work of employees (such as process improvement leading to less red tape).

4. Number of changes

The number of changes also impact the change capacity.  Obviously more changes mean more capacity consumed, within an extent.  

5. Impact of each change

The impact level of each change is also critical.  Some initiatives have significant impact that requires a long period of time to embed the changes, e.g. culture change and complex system and process changes.  On the other hand, simple process changes may not require much capacity and simple communication is all that is needed.

6. Overall change landscape

The overall change landscape of the organisation also affects perception and therefore in some ways the capacity for change.  If competitors within the industry are all undergoing significant transformations then it sets the tone for what’s to come.  In the same way, if all our friends are used to virtual ways of working then we become more open to it.

What’s the benefits of measuring change saturation

Measuring change saturation can be significantly beneficial for the organisation.  Understanding the tipping point means that PMO and change teams can work to avoid this from a planning perspective.  Finding out during or after the releases that there is too much change saturation is an expensive exercise that diminishes the planned initiative benefits.  It also leads to loss of productivity and operational disruptions.  Moreover, employees lose faith in the ability of the organisation to manage change.

With greater clarity of the change saturation points organisations can work to monitor, track and manage the risk of over saturation.  Measures can then be put in place to ensure minimal business disruption and protection of initiative benefits.  This should be a key focus for risk in change.

How to measure change saturation?

Firstly, there is not one change saturation point for the whole organisation.  Each department or even team may have different change saturation points.  This is because they have different leaders, different cultural norms and different change capabilities.

So how do we measure the change saturation at a department or division level?  Look historically at how changes have been received, starting with the past few months.

1. Monitor operational indicators

Depending on what the department is in charge of, understanding the change saturation point means closely monitoring the operational indicators.  During change saturation operational indicators are usually also negatively impacted, depending on the nature of the changes.

For a call centre this could be average handling time, customer satisfaction rate, absenteeism, etc.  For a back office department it could be efficiency or effectiveness measures, case completion rate, case quality rating, etc.  You don’t need to be the expert in all the various operational measures of each department as you can tap on the operations representatives of these departments.

2. Get feedback from leaders

Interview or conduct surveys with departmental leaders to understand their perception of how changes have been implemented and any potential disruptions on the business.  Understand how their teams have experienced change.  Ask them whether it has been challenging to balance operational needs with change-induced activities.  For example, were there challenges in employees attending initiative training sessions, and completing their role delivery obligations?

3. Be aware of potential biases

Be careful of opinions and feedback from leaders and employees.  There may be a tendency to over-state and complain that there is constantly too much change.  This happens because some over-state the risk of change saturation hoping that this may lead to less change and therefore easier to manage the operations of a business.  Take care to avoid this bias.

4. Identify points of change saturation

If the department has undergone periods that has resulted in negative impact on operational indicators and leaders have also provided feedback of similar change disruptions then measure this level of change.  Record this specifically.

This requires a portfolio level view of all the changes that have occurred and the various impacts of each initiative.  With this measurement you are able to then identify this level as perhaps just exceeding the change saturation point for that department.  With this identified you can then plot this change saturation line.  You should also closely monitor this level and adjust as needed.

Sample from The Change Compass (Red line is change saturation)

Using The Change Compass change impact can be expressed in terms of hours of impact per week.  The change saturation line can the plotted against the change impact levels.  From this, you’re able to easily visualise to what extent there could be risk in exceeding the change saturation line.

It is important to note that measuring change impacts and therefore change saturation should ideally be at a weekly level.  Measuring change impact at a monthly level may not be sufficiently detailed enough since there could be changes in impact levels within each month.  For example, for Finance the quarter-end consolidation cycle could start mid-month and therefore the change impact indication may show up as less than it actually should be simply because the data is rolled-up by month. 

Other disciplines such as HR, Marketing or Operations rely on data to make critical business decisions.  The Change function should also follow suit.  Being armed with the right change impact data means that you can help the business to precisely pin-point change saturation points.  This can provide tremendous value to the business in terms of business, initiative and risk protection.

Why heatmaps are not the best way to make change decisions

Why heatmaps are not the best way to make change decisions

Change heatmaps are one of the most commonly used charts when making business decisions on whether there is too much change or not.  Yes there are some advantages of using heatmap.  However, there are also lots of strong reasons why you should not use change heatmaps, at least solely.  Let’s examine some of these reasons and tear apart some of the strong risks of relying on heatmaps to make change planning decisions.

What are some of the common ways of using heatmaps?  A lot of organisations use change heatmaps to represent how much change there is impacting different parts of the business.  There are various versions of this.  However, the most common way to depict this is either to list each project against different parts of the business and show the heat levels.  This is the less popular format because each project has varying levels of heat and to aggregate the heat level into one singular cell is not a good representation of the stakeholder impact experience.  

The more popular way is to plot out the heat levels of different business units across time, with each cell showing heat levels.  This is better able to depict how different business units will be experiencing different levels of change across time across the delivery of all projects.  The below is one example of a heatmap.

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What are some of the advantages of using change heatmaps?

Easy to understand

A lot of stakeholders like this format because it is easier to understand.  The deeper the colour is the more ‘change heat level’ there is.  Simple!  Most stakeholders can intuitively interpret the data without needing explanation.

Visually appealing

People like looking at colourful charts and the heatmap is colourful.  Let’s face it … no one likes looking at a series of boring, stale charts that are monotone in colour.  Right?

Familiar

Most stakeholders are used to the traffic light view of change heatmaps.  In most project setting, the red, amber, green indication of different heat levels are well understood to depict varying levels of heat within a change setting.  

However, there is a long list of strong reasons why you should not rely on change heatmaps … or at least not purely. 

Why should we not use the change heatmap?

The traffic light method of depicting different volumes of change is misleading.  

Firstly, having only 3 categories of different categories of change volume is not adequate within organisations that have lots of change.  In practice, if we only use red, amber and green to depicts all varying levels of change then a lot of the time the colours will remain the same, even when there is significant varying levels.  So, clearly the variation depicted within 3 colours is much too limiting.

The traffic light method of depicting change is subject to psychological bias

Yes stakeholders are familiar with interpreting traffic light indications.  However, within the project context stakeholders interpret green as good, red as alert/bad, and amber as be careful or keep watching.  This is absolutely not the right message when interpreting the heatmap.  

Each colour should show purely the level of change impact, and not if the change is good or bad.  Therefore, at The Change Compass we have stopped using the traffic light system of indicating change heatmap.  Instead, we use different shade of the same colour so that the user purely focuses on the colour levels, and not additional psychological biases.  Here is an example.

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The heatmap is very categorical

Whether using 3 levels of 5 levels of colours is categorical by definition.  We are categorising the varying levels of change into one of these categories.  So, by definition the heatmap cannot be granular.  It is only designed to provide a high level and broad-sweeping view of change volume.  To get a more granular view other charts should be used instead that depict exact volume of the impact within a point in time.  For example, a bar chart.  Here is one example.

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Some of the best reasons not to use heatmaps are due to significant risk

What are these risks?

Risk of personal judgment in deriving heatmaps

A common way to put together change heatmaps is to use ‘personal judgment’ to rate the change impact of projects across time and across business units.  This is an easier and faster way to generate heatmaps.  However, because the rating is highly subjective, you will easily get challenged by your stakeholders.  It may be a rabbit-hole within a stakeholder meeting that you would not want to go down.

Comparing across business units

When stakeholders read a change heatmap the natural tendency is to compare the heat levels across different business units.  Department A has more change than department B.  It is human nature.  However, what the heatmap does not communicate is the varying levels of perceived change saturation across different business units.  

Change saturation is affected by varying factors such as leadership quality and change maturity.  Therefore, different business units will have different levels of susceptibility for change saturation.  The same change volume can be perceived as having exceeded saturation in one business unit.  However, for another business unit the same change level can be easily handled and consumed.

So, comparing change volumes across business units needs to be done carefully with the premise that this cannot necessarily be an apple-to-apple comparison.  

Isolating the hotspots

Most companies present heatmaps at business unit levels.  However, this may not be sufficient because in some cases this may be too broad of a view.  It could be that on the surface one business unit has the most volume of change.  But maybe its not the whole business unit.  It could be just one team that is going to shoulder the bulk of the change volume, versus the whole business unit.  Therefore, the ability to drill down and examine which section and which layer of the organisation is most impacted is critical.

Drilling down to find out where the hostpots are is not just a factor of which part of the business unit.  It could also be the stakeholder group or type of roles impacted.  It could be that only the frontlines are impacted versus the whole business unit. Or that only team managers are impacted, and not so much the frontline teams.

The other factors to examine also include the location of the teams impacted.  Are certain locations more impacted than others?  Are certain project activities impacting employees more than others?  For example, are most employees needing to take time away from their day jobs because of the amount of training required?

Different types of people impacts

Employee heatmaps are mostly what change practioners spend their time on producing.  However, there could also be impacts on customers.  A lot of organisations are very forth-coming to call out that ‘customer is their number one focus’.  However, is there a clear picture of what are all the various customer impacts resulting from change initiatives?  There could also be impacts on partners and suppliers that work with the organisation to produce the products and services.  Their impacts could also be critical in managing and planning for change.

Does not take into account change velocity

Change heatmaps typically focus on volumes of change.  However, this is not the only perspective that needs to be considered.  What about the speed in which change is going to be implemented?  Will the change feel fast or slow?  Is there a lot of change to be implemented within a short period of time?  Clearly, having a way to depict the velocity of change can also be a very insightful lense in addition to just the focus on volume.

Teams that may be less change mature could struggle with a fast pace of change if they have not had the previous experience nor the change capability in place.  Does the team have the capacity to undergo rapid and fast moving change?  Do they have the operating rhythms in place to support this velocity?  Having a view to the velocity of change may provide guidance in terms of what business readiness needs to be in place to prepare for change.  The below is an example of measuring the comparative speed of change from The Change Compass.

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So, in summary you can see that there is more to understanding and planning for change than to rely solely on the change heatmap.  Change is multidimensional.  Simply using one view to depict it may not be sufficient.  The key is to use it to provide a broad high level understanding and then drill down into other change data to understand what the story is and what the risks are the organisation.

Being clear with what the story-line is will help you to determine what data to present to your stakeholders.  If you are purely focused on driving discussion on whether to delay the roll out of certain projects due to limited business capacity of a particular business unit, then a bar chart may be more useful.  If you are wanting to portray the impacted volume of certain roles, then a line chart portraying the volume of change that these roles will be facing into over time is a better option.

If you are finding it too complicated or manual to derive various change data visualisation or charts have a chat to us. Digital is the way to go for organisations that would like to become more digital. Business are putting their weight on digising as many parts of the operation as possible. Change also needs to catch up and digitise itself. This does not mean being data-centric at the expense of the ‘softer side of change’. It means using data to be more impactful and have better conversations to portray what will happen to the organisation and being able to call out critical risks, with adequate confidence.

For more on change measurement go to The Ultimate Guide to Measuring Change.

Click here to read more on building change analytics capability.

Journey of realising change value

Journey of realising change value

Leveraging a tool such as The Change Compass is not just about data entry and interpreting data. It is about building organisational capability in managing change. This means that business stakeholders needs to be engaged, coached and supported to be able to leverage change data to make operations decisions. This also means that other stakeholders such as the PMO (project management office) and senior managers are also to use change data for planning purposes.

To find out more about how to structure the approach for leveraging the value from a change tool such as The Change Compass click the following link to download the infographic.

Infographic of Journey of Realising Change Value

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