The ultimate guide to behaviour change

The ultimate guide to behaviour change

In almost every change initiative there is an element of behaviour change.  For some initiatives the behaviour change required is large and complex whilst for others it cane be as small as pressing different buttons and using a different user interface.  Effective behaviour change is one of the most critical outcomes that the change practitioner can hope to achieve.  With the achievement of desired behaviours come the ultimate benefit associated with an initiative.  On the other hand, not achieving the behaviour change targeted means that the change has not succeeded.

Given the importance of behaviour change in every initiative this article aims to cover key aspects of how a change practitioner should approach and design the behaviour change.  Yet, successfully designing and implementing behaviour change is one of the most challenging tasks for the change practitioner.  It is common place that many change practitioners do not have the experience to know how to achieve successful behaviour change.

The definition of behaviour change

So what is behaviour change?  

Behaviour change “refer(s) to any transformation or modification of human behaviour”.  


This seems like a fairly general definition that is all-encompassing and can include anything ranging from behaviour change in a psychological context or in a social or workplace context.  

However, a key part of behaviour change is to recognise that behaviour, by definition, must be observable in some Shape or form.  A behaviour can be verbal, non-verbal or physical behaviour.  However, a behaviour cannot be ‘perception’ or ‘thinking’ since these cannot be observed nor displayed necessarily.  

Another feature in behaviour change is that the behaviour is to be changed from the current state to a future state.  The quantum of the change determines the complexity of the change required and the extent to which a series of change interventions is required to achieve the desired future state.  This means, if the behaviour change is easy from the impacted person’s perspective, then the change approach can be fairly light and does not need to be complex.  However, if the quantum of the change is large, then a heavy design of change interventions is expected to achieve the outcome.

Some examples of behaviour change within a change initiative context includes:

  • Using a different computer program interface with different layout or keystroke steps in performing tasks
  • Different process steps required in disclosing financial details in business reporting
  • Proactive coaching employees through feedback to improve sales effectiveness
  • Reporting on risk incidents that are not compliant with company standards
  • Actively establishing rapport with the customer to demonstrate empathy by acknowledging their feelings and demonstrating effective listening
  • Speak up against bullying behaviours amongst colleagues

The importance of focusing on behaviour change

Inexperienced change practitioners will normally just followed the standard cookie-cutter approach of filling out the various change templates such as stakeholder matrix, change impact assessment, and a change plan.  And then proceed to develop a communications plan or a learning plan before executing on implementation.

So what is wrong with this?  

As called out previously, in almost every change initiative there is a set of desired behaviours required to achieve the end state of the change initiative.  The job of the change practitioner is to figure this out and design a change program around the achievement of these behaviours.  Just by filling in templates and carrying out standard change approaches will most likely not achieve the targeted behaviours.

For example, in transitioning users from an old ERP system to a new digital system with a new look and feel, it is critical to identify the core behaviours required in the new state.  Is it that in using the new digital system the user has access to a lot more timely data and therefore the behaviour change needs to be around 1) proactively checking for data and derive insights and 2) use these insights and data to make better decisions.

This means that if you were to just focus on communicating the change and train employees on how to use the new digital system, the whole project may not be deemed to be successful.  This is because it is simply a project of ‘installation’ of a new system.  However, the benefits targeted by the new digital system is about employees gaining more insights through the ability to easily access a range of data previously not available.  Employees may know how to use the new system but it does not mean that they will automatically exhibit these desired behaviours.

One of the tricky things about behaviours is the ‘knowing’ vs. ‘doing’ conundrum.  Just because someone knows how to do something it does not mean they will necessarily do it.  Just because there is a pedestrian path, it does not mean that everyone will always use it.  In a similar way, just because someone knows that the company wants him/her to document sales activities, it does not equate that all sales people will document all sales activities.  In fact, in practice, we know that spending time on ‘admin’ such as documenting and entering sales activities into a system is often the last thing sales people want to do.

In the next section we will cover how to drive behaviour change.

How to achieve behaviour change

PJ Fogg model

Dr PJ Fogg is a Stanford professor who founded the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University.  PJ Fogg also wrote the New York Times bestseller ‘Tiny Habits’.  What I love about this is that the Fogg model is incredibly simple and practical.  It is grounded and backed up by significant empirical research and not just an ‘opinion’.

The Fogg model highlights 3 key elements that must converge at the same time for a behaviour to occur.  

1. Motivation – Different motivators have different impacts on behaviour

2. Ability – This refers to how easy it is to undertake a behaviour.  Some characteristics include time, money, physical effort, brain cycles (or ease of understanding and processing the task at hand), social deviance (the extent to which a behaviour is out of the social norm), and non-routine (behaviour that disrupts an existing routine)

3. Prompt/Trigger – These are reminders of events that prompt a particular behaviour.  It could be an alarm, an associated image/event/person/scent, etc that reminds the person of the behaviour.

The power of this model is in its simplicity.  You can apply this to any change initiative and the model will guide your thinking on how to design effective behaviour change.   When something feels easy to do (low ability), then it will not require a lot of motivation to do it. Alternatively, when something is perceived as very hard to do, then it will require very high motivation to understate the behaviour.  The key is to aim above the line.  So, either focusing on increasing ability or increasing motivation will result in above the curved line, which means the behaviour taking place.

Example of applying the Fogg model

Case:  You are implementing a cost cutting exercise due to the impact of Covid on the organisation.  As a result of this exercise, the impacted employees will need to pick up parts of the roles of others who have been let go.  The behaviour change required is that impacted employees will need to cover a broader set of tasks and at times have a heavier workload as a result.


Motivation:  The impacted employee’s motivation is currently impacted after seeing their fellow colleagues lose their jobs and hence feeling worried that their jobs may be impacted. This is despite reassurances from senior managers that no more jobs will be cut for the time being.  The challenge will be to sufficiently motivate these employees by continuously reassure them of their job safety and work through the transition of having a broader role responsibility.  Appealing to the focus on supporting customers and not letting them down maybe a theme to reinforce.

Ability:  It is critical to assess to what extent impacted employees are able to carry out new tasks assigned from a skill perspective.  Training or coaching may be required.  The other area to address is workload concerns.  The perception that heavy workload is required will hinder their likelihood of carrying out the additional responsibilities.  Workload prioritisation and protocols are key topics to talk through to reassure employees how workload may eventuate during heavy periods.  

Trigger:  Different triggers may be designed to remind and reinforce the uptake of new accountabilities.  These may include manager 1:1s, team reporting, open visual display of performance indicators, email reminders, colleague reinforcement/coaching, etc.

According to the Fogg model if the new accountabilities are significant it would be best to break these down into smaller behaviour increments vs a ‘big bang’ transition.  It could be that there is a gradual transition whereby a period of continuous coaching is required after gradually introducing new sets of tasks for the employee to uptake and practice.  After the transition period is completed, the employee then formally uptakes on the full accountabilities.  

According to research findings, it is much easier to adopt the new behaviours if the discrete behaviours are broken down to small increment behaviours.  Fogg has used lots of different example of this one of which is doing push-ups.  He started by doing 10.  Then he would add 1 more every day to the push-up exercise, eventually getting to 100 push-ups.  Adding a trigger to the new behaviour is also critical.  For example, Fogg gave the example of doing sit-ups first thing in the morning as soon as you get up or to do pushups after going to the toilet.  The event of getting up or going to the toilet then becomes a trigger for the new behaviour.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach to behavioural change

Cognitive Behavioural approaches to behaviour change.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a widely established clinical approach to changing behaviours in patients suffering from various psychological conditions or disorders.  Cognitive approaches are based on the fact that the way one thinks determines one’s reaction and therefore one’s behaviour.  For example, self-talk is a mechanism to change one’s opinion or perception.  By constantly reinforcing and verbalising positive statements about oneself may improve one’s own perception of oneself.  Alternatively, constant negative self-talk leads to negative self-perception.

Behavioural approaches are based on research that started with Pavlov’s research on dogs where he associated bells as a trigger for food.  After a period of time, every time the dogs heard the bell they would start salivating, with salivating being the behaviour.  This process of associating a trigger with a behavioural reaction is also called ‘conditioning’.  The process of conditioning is to ‘re-program’ the subject so that a new behaviour is introduced in reaction to a trigger.

There are many ways in which cognitive behavioural approaches may be applied to changing a person’s behaviour.  For example, lets use the previous example of implementing a new system.

Creating or changing impression of the new system

A communications campaign may be devised to create or change existing impression of the new system.  This would be similar to any marketing campaign that associated particular imagery or messages with a feeling or impression.  Over a period of repetition, the employees will start to associate positive impressions and key messages with the new system.  Any tag-lines that are reinforced by manager briefings or town hall sessions would also act the reinforce the same messages.

As a part of the training of the new system, it could be that other than learning the ins-and-outs of the operating the new system, that the employee needs to be more proactive to look at customer information so as to provide more value-add suggestions to the customer.  Practices during the session, with subsequent reinforcements by the team leader or manager would act to build the behaviour change.  

The trigger for new behaviours could be any acronyms, diagrams, tag lines or pictures created as a part of the campaign or training content.  It is however important that there is a period of reinforcement or else the behaviour may not occur.  The reinforcement may take form in terms of manager support, communication messages, prizes, competitions and reporting on behaviour progress.  

This is why post-release embedment is so important as the embedment process focuses on constantly reinforcing the behaviour so that it becomes second-nature.  Without this, the newly acquired behaviour will not be sustained.  This is like exercise.  Exercising a few times and your body starting to get the drift of what to do is just the start of the change.  Without a period of constant exercising it will not become a habit.

The other important cognitive behavioural approach of embedding new behaviour is ensuring adequate and effective social support.  Whilst some employees may be quite self-sufficient and are able to resolve any system issues themselves. Others may require a lot more hand-holding.  This is why it is critical that there are change champions in place who can coach and support employees to support the right behaviours and resolve any obstacles in adopting the new system fully.

How to measure behaviours

Measuring behaviours is absolutely critical because without effective measurement it is difficult to ascertain to what extent the desired behaviours have been obtained and sustained.  It is the old adage “what gets measured matters”.

So what are some of the ways in which to measure behaviours?  These are some common examples.

  • Manager rating based on observation
  • Video recording
  • Phone/call listening
  • Attendance (e.g. training)
  • Test 
  • System/digital reporting that tracks behaviour in a system
  • Employee-wide surveys specifically designed to focus on targeted behaviours

What categories in which to measure behaviours?

There are many considerations or dimensions in measuring behaviours.  The following are some of these:

  • Time:  How long would you want to measure the behaviours to ensure that they have fully embedded and incorporated into business-as-usual.  Typical practice is several months after the ‘release’.  Tracking reinforces behaviours. This means the longer the tracking mechanism continues – the more likelihood the behaviours will last longer

  •  Level of behaviour change:  Is the behaviour being measured black and white in its determination?  I.e. is it easy to categories if the behaviour has occurred or not?  Or are there different levels of behaviour achievement?  E.g. If you are measuring if call centre staff has exhibited behaviour is reviewing customer data and offer suggestions, are there different levels of ‘value add’ behaviours based on customer data, in which case there could be a scale to rate this. Alternatively, it could also be a yes/no type of classification

  • Frequency:  How frequent is the behaviour being displayed?  Is it that the goal is to promote the frequency of the desired behaviour?  Or are there certain limits expected?  For example, if we would like call centre staff to offer value add calls with the customer, are there particular ‘ceilings’ or limited after which it may no longer be valuable for the customer?  

  • Situational considerations:  Ranking and classifying behaviours should also always consider situational factors.  For example, it could be that the customer was not in the right emotional state to receive value-add suggestions and therefore the behaviour would not be appropriate for that situation.  It could also be that the call centre consultant has been suffering from sickness or has been struggling with family difficulties and therefore for a period of time was not performing effectively.  As a result, previously acquired behaviours could have dropped temporarily

How do we drive full embedment of behaviours?

These are some key call outs in ensuring that the behaviours you have set out to transition to not only are achieved but are sustained.  Pretty much all aspects of change could determine the extent to which behaviours become adopted or not.

1. Executive sponsorship and drive.  You will hear a lot of this in literature and articles that with executive sponsorship and drive it is much easier for behaviours to be sustained.

2. Employee community support and reinforcement.  This point acts almost as the balancing point of the previous one.  With sufficiency employee community support and reinforcement it is possible to drive continual behavioural reinforcement even without strong executive sponsorship.

3. Measurement and reporting.  With the right measurement and reporting, employees receive feedback on what the performance has been and this constant feedback act as a strong reinforcement.  This is especially the case if everyone can see others’ behavioural performance.  It could be by business unit or individual, but ‘naming and shaming’ can work if that is consistent with the organisational cultural values.

4. Early and continuous engagement.  This is a change management 101 point.  With early and continuous engagement impacted stakeholders will feel much more engaged with the change.  As a result, they will want to exhibit the desired behaviours to make it a success because they feel that they are the ones driving the changes.  Alternatively, if the change is perceived as designed and implemented by another party without consultation with the impacted group, there could be resistance or lack of embedment.

5. Focus on continuous improvement.  A culture of continuous improvement can also support continual and full embedment of behaviours.  If there is a strong culture of analysing the current performance, working on root cause analysis and team work on actions to improve performance, then behaviours will be adopted.  In this situation, any situational or personal factors or not exhibiting behaviours may be called out and addressed to achieve the targeted outcome.

Complexity of embedding multiple behaviours across multiple initiatives

Most organisations are implementing multiple initiatives at the same time.  This is the norm as organisations stay competitive, stay relevant and in business.  When there are multiple projects going on all driving seemingly different behaviours. 

How do we embed multiple behaviours?

1. Understand the different behaviours across initiatives.  Rather than focusing on every single behaviour driven by every initiative, the key is to capture and record the top few behaviours targeted by each initiative.  For large organisations with lots of initiatives, this may seem like an impossible feat.  It could be organising 1-2 workshops to capture these behaviours.  Do note that different initiatives may be at different stages of the product life cycle and therefore it may not be possible to capture all behaviours at a particular point in time.  Having a regular change portfolio meeting where this could be discussed and captured iteratively would be ideal.

The Change Compass has just released a feature to aid the collection of core behaviours across initiatives so that these may be analysed, understood and linked to aid better implementation alignment

2. Analyse and group the captured behaviours.  After compiling the behaviours across initiatives the next step is to group and understand them.  

  • Are there behaviours that are part of the same theme?  For example, what are initiatives that are promoting a closer focus on the customer by promoting better listening and empathy skills?
  • Are there any behaviours that are ‘contradictory’ to other behaviours?  Here is a real example.  For a bank, one initiative was tasked to retire and close off a particular credit card due to a lack of profitability.  However, at the same time, the same team was asked to try and sell more by their business unit head to meet their sales target. 

3. Examine behaviours that are grouped into the same theme and think of ways to better align and join the dots to improve execution and behaviour embedment.  This step is the most crucial step and involves running workshops across initiatives to better align approaches and plan for synergistic implementation of change across initiatives.  Key discussion points or opportunities may include:

  • Aligning key messages and positioning for common behavioural themes.  For example, if 2 initiatives are focused on improving customer-centric its, how might these better align their communication activities, look and feel of communications collateral, wording and positioning of behaviours.
  • Align, cross leverage and cross reference learning content.  If multiple initiatives are all driving common behaviours, can content be cross-reinforced across multiple initiatives to drive a consistent and aligned user experience.  This also ensures that there are no duplication of efforts in covering the same content
  • Align the sequencing and implementation of change activities.  If 2 initiatives are both driving similar behaviours, can the various change activities be better sequenced and aligned to drive a better outcome than 2 separate siloed approaches.  For example, can the executive sponsor speak to both initiatives in their town hall address, and can change champions be cross leveraged to talk about both initiatives to help impacted teams join dots around the common behaviours?

Successful and fully embedded behavioural change is the epitome of successful change and transformation initiatives.  Achieving this is not always easy but having the right focus and adopting a structured approach to design behaviour change will ensure initiative success.  Don’t be afraid of experimenting to test different ways in which to drive behaviour change.  Keep iterating with different approaches to drive the full adoption of behaviours, which in turn will then ensure the full achievement of initiative benefits.

A practical guide for managing disruptions in change

A practical guide for managing disruptions in change

Disruptions are all around us.  First, the various disruptions with Covid on all aspects of people’s lives around the globe.  Now we have the riots across the US as well as other countries about racial inequality.  With these, we have the backdrop of constant technology changes that constantly challenge how we run our lives.  What next you may ask? 

Disruptions to how change initiatives are managed seem to never cease.  You think you’ve been through the worst with Covid impacting the budget expenditure on projects and the implementation timeline thrown up in the air due to lack of business capacity.  The racial riots are disruption normal business operations and it is back to business continuity plans for some organisations.  How might we continue to manage our various change initiatives amongst these constant disruptions?

Strategic approaches

In being able to effectively respond to constant business disruptions on initiatives a set of routines and practices need to take place prior to the individual disruptions.

Use the three horizons of growth as a framework to focus effort on initiatives

three horizons - Engage//Innovate
A brief description of the Mckinsey 3 horizons model

McKinsey’s three horizons of growth describe 3 horizons of which initiatives should be clustered.  Each horizon forms a critical set of initiatives from which the organisation may continue to develop and grow.  If all focus was placed on horizon 1 that are focused on the here and now shorter-term initiatives, then the organisation is not placed to deal with emerging challenges addressed under horizons 2 and 3.  Vice versa if all the effort is placed on horizon 3 and not 1. 

With business disruptions, the effort and expenditure placed on initiatives can be evaluated in light of which horizon they are in.  For example, if the Covid disruption is so significant on the business that it’s a matter of survival, then all efforts should focus on horizon 1 initiatives that contribute to organisational survival in terms of revenue and cost management.  If the disruption is significant but not debilitating then it may be wise to spend half of the effort on horizon 1 with the rest on horizons 2 and 3.

Adopt a portfolio approach to manage changes

When initiatives are treated in isolation it is very difficult to flex and adjust to changes compared to a portfolio approach to manage change initiatives.  Individual initiatives have limited resource capacity and project activities will have limited impact compared to multiple initiatives.

So how does one adopt a portfolio approach to manage changes?  Read The Ultimate Guide to Change Portfolio Management or 7 change portfolio management best practices.

Having a portfolio approach to manage changes means having established the following:

  • Data-based approach to manage change impacts with a view of change impacts across initiatives
  • Ability to visualize and plan the change impacts from a business-unit-centric and stakeholder group centric perspective
  • Ability to manage resourcing across initiatives so that as required resources may be flexed up or down across the overall portfolio based on prioritisation
  • Ability to guide and prepare each business for multiple changes across initiatives
  • Key stakeholder messages may be synchronised and packaged across initiatives versus an initiative by initiative approach
  • Improved ability to map out clearly the various skills and capabilities being implemented across initiatives to avoid duplication and improve synergies

What can change practitioners contribute in planning for disruptions?

Derive different change scenarios

Scenario planning as a technique is rarely used in a project planning context.  However, it is especially critical and relevant within an agile environment.  Agile project practices mean that changes keep iterating and therefore it may be hard to anticipate what the end solution or changes will look like.  It may also be hard to anticipate how the business will respond to the changes being proposed if we don’t know what the changes will look like.

To allow adequate time to plan for changes it is very helpful to derive at least 2 scenarios.  In an agile environment, change practitioners need to adopt a hypothesis-based approach to deriving change approaches.  Let’s take an example of a standard system implementation project.  In rolling out a new system these could be 2 likely scenarios based on the hypothesis being posed.

Hypothesis:  The system being implemented is easy and intuitive for users and therefore the change approach will be sufficient with awareness raising and a 1 hour training session

Scenario 1:  The hypothesis is true and all users have found it easy and intuitive to use and therefore the change approach proposed is sufficient to prepare the users for this change.

Scenario 2: The hypothesis is only partially true and there are some user groups who struggled to understand all features of the system and need additional help and guidance.  Additional training sessions with coaches are proposed

A different way of contrasting different scenarios will be to derive different project expenditures and funding requirements and resulting change delivery work.  For example, under the system implementation project, a ‘Toyota’ approach of delivery could involve minimum training and stakeholder awareness generation.  For a ‘Rolls Royce’ approach of delivery which will cost significantly more could include tailored coaching sessions for each stakeholder group, 1:1 coaching for senior leaders, a long awareness campaign, and an extensive measurement system.  This helps stakeholders understand the cost of delivery and will help them to select an appropriate delivery model.

The usefulness of planning ahead to anticipate for different scenarios mean that steps may be taken to be ready for either of the scenarios and so the project team will not be caught off guard in case the hypothesis proposed is proved false.

To be able to visualize different scenarios it is important to show the different impacts of the scenarios.  This includes the impact of time, sequencing, and impact levels on stakeholder groups.  With a different rollout approach will stakeholder groups have better bandwidth and ability to adopt the change or will the bandwidth be more limited?

Here is an example of a scenario planning visual where the user can simply drag the impact bars to different times and be able to save this as a scenario.  After saving the scenario the next activity will be to analyse the scenario to make sense of the potential impacts of this scenario on the business and impacted stakeholders.  Are there project dependencies that need to be taken into consideration?  What is the overall change impact across initiatives as a result of the changes in this scenario?  How does this impact the customer versus internal stakeholder groups?

A scenario planning example from The Change Compass

For scenarios to be used in a practical way it is important to be able to list any ‘proof points’ that outline how we can tell that the scenario is becoming true or not.  These proof points can include anything ranging from stakeholder reactions, the timing of the implementation, the complexity of the features or solution, cost, and other tangible measurements such as system response time, time taken to perform the process, etc.

Agree on decision making principle with stakeholder

Prior to any disruptions, it is important to agree with stakeholders key decision-making principles.  Having clear, agreed decision-making principles means that key decisions can be made without subjecting to personal opinions or preferences.  During any times of disruption Decision-making principles can be organised as ‘trade-off’ principles with a prioritised order of importance.  Below are some examples:

  • Cost
  • Time
  • People resource bandwidth
  • Benefit realisation
  • Stakeholder readiness and acceptance
  • External media implications

Factor in critical path in project planning

The critical path method is a way in which a project’s key interdependencies are linked and mapped out in a linear way so as to understand the key logical points along the project.  From this any potential disruptions, slippages or delays in project deliverables and how they impact the remaining deliverables can be clearly understood and planned for.

A clear understanding of the critical path within a project means that with any disruptions to activities the impacts of this on the rest of the deliverables can easily be articulated.  To deal with the disruptions to the project a longer implementation may need to be negotiated with the impacted businesses, or depending on the nature of the disruption, a different project approach with different deliverables may need to be derived.

Critical Path Method: A Project Management Essential
An example of critical path planning

In this article, we discussed multiple ways in which the change practitioner can help the organisation get ready for various disruptions to change initiatives.  During periods of disruptive change, it is even more critical for change practitioners to demonstrate their value to lead and maneuver around and plan for uncertainty.  Agile organisations are well placed to deal with disruptions, however, an effective set of routines, practices, preparations, and capabilities are all critical to building overall organisational readiness.

Guide for change re-planning – infographic

Guide for change re-planning – infographic

During Covid organisations are re-planning their initiatives to better cater for the various impacts on people and business capacity.

We have summarised key steps in change re-planning during Covid using The Change Compass in this 1-pager infographic. Follow the step by step guide to support your organisation during any re-planning exercises.

To download click HERE.

A guide to change planning during coronavirus – The role of change practitioners

A guide to change planning during coronavirus – The role of change practitioners

“When disaster strikes, it tears the curtain away from the festering problems that we have beneath them,”


Most of the world is now shrouded in a thick cloud that is the coronavirus.  It is shaping a lot of our daily lives, from shopping, travelling, visiting friends, work, economy and not the least health.  Some businesses are going under whilst others struck with sudden increased demand.  Chaos and panic abound.  There will certainly be significant levels of economic and therefore industry impacts resulting from the virus.  As a result of the sudden shifts in business decisions, what is the role of the change practitioner?  With the right tools, data and approach, the change practitioner can be the lynch-pin to enable the organisation to plan effectively through the impacts of the virus.

Let’s outline some of the current landscape and what a lot of businesses are undergoing.

Offshore staffing changes

Many companies are impacted by quarantine decisions.  In certain countries such as the Philippines there is a significant presence of offshore operations.  To rapidly contain the spread of the virus the Philippines government on Monday has ordered community quarantines covering half of the population leading to business shutdowns.  What this means is that many companies have suddenly found themselves in the position of having to rapidly ramp up their onshore operations to deal with customer call volumes. 

Even those who have other offshore operations not in the Philippines will be wise to review their business continuity planning in the event that their business partners are impacted.

Work from home

To protect employees from the spread of the virus a significant number of companies have asked all of their employees to work from home where possible.  This also leads to a significant shift in the ways of working for these organisations, especially if the core skills of leading and managing workforce virtually are new skill sets.  To read more about how to deal with the impacts of the virus go to our article Managing Change During the Cornoavirus.

Restricted travel

Most companies have also implemented restrictions on travel.  Some countries have even implemented international travel quarantines, essentially reducing the majority of inflows of visitors.

Resource ramp-up

For those companies who need to ramp up onshore operations, this presents challenges in terms of the speed of resource ramp-up to meet customer demands.  Challenges include the availability of technical equipment such as headsets and laptops, as well as finding the talent pool when there is restricted travelling.

Other companies are significantly benefiting from the current situation, for example, digital retailers such as Amazon, Ebay or medical equipment providers and suppliers.

Resource ramp down and cost containment

A lot of retailers are hard hit by the sudden slow-down of retail foot traffic.  Airlines have drastically cut flights and travel agencies are hit by the lack of travel bookings.  Some have started to lay off staff in anticipation of continuing downturn in customer numbers.  Even for those who have not yet laid off staff, there is focus on cost containment amidst cost challenges from declining revenue.

Business continuity plans

Most of the businesses negatively impacted by the virus in a significant way are resorting to their business continuity plan.  This means that the chain of command may be different from business-as-usual and decision making may be faster or slower depending on the nature of the decision.  This also means that any business plans in place may change.  Focus and resources may be shifted leading to significant change for employees.

Business replanning implications

Given significant disturbances to business-as-usual activities, what are the options in terms of existing change initiatives?  Most organizations will be in the middle of reviewing or re-planning existing focus areas including change initiatives.  The following are some of the likely scenarios. 

  • Prioritise or re-prioritise existing initiatives
  • Defer existing initiatives as needed
  • Resource planning: Subject matter expert or business representative availability given any business continuity challenges, project resources (increased or decreased demand)
  • Scenario planning: Some companies are modelling various scenarios of the impact of the virus on the business in order to make arrangements from a risk and mitigation perspective

The role of the change practitioner

Impacts of changing plans

Given most large organizations are already undergoing various change initiatives to stay competitive, the changes caused by the coronavirus adds to the volume and pace of existing planned set of changes.  The project management office, as well as other planning teams will benefit significantly from access to change impact information and data to make balanced decisions on any business replanning activities.

Some of these include:

  • Initiatives and impacts from a business unit perspective
  • Geographic differences in planned initiative impacts
  • Planned customer impacts
  • Visualisation of any existing black-out periods and other periods of high customer volumes or high employee workload periods (e.g. quarter-ends for Finance and peak customer policy renewal/purchasing periods)
  • Stakeholder group impact, e.g. customer-facing vs. non-customer facing staff
  • Hot spot analysis of team capacity impacts on top of existing planned initiatives
  • Impacts on customer segments
  • Impacts on partners and suppliers

Example of data visualisation from The Change Compass

Model likely scenarios of moving initiatives

The other area in which the change practitioner may add significant value in the business replanning exercise is in helping to articulate and visualise the impact of moving initiatives.  As outlined previously, these could be the result of re-sequencing, re-prioritisation or scenario planning to better manage risk exposure for the organisation.

In modelling the impacts of various scenarios, key call outs include:

  • Resourcing and capacity challenges
  • Change volume hotspots
  • Change velocity against existing business change capacity
  • Feasibility of allowing embedment of change between initiatives
  • Advantages or disadvantages of any change release ‘packaging’

Plan restructuring exercises

Often restructuring exercises are lead by senior managers with the guidance of human resource partners from a people and HR policy perspective.  However, the value of the change practitioner is in designing the restructuring as a project, containing scoped phases and planned according to a sequence of logical steps based on sound change principles.  After all, restructuring exerts the highest impact on individuals more than other changes.

Restructuring is no different than other change initiatives.  There needs to be clear articulation of the reasons or the ‘why’ behind the restructuring, logical articulation of how decisions are made, clear detailing of impacts to the organisations and people overall, and a series of planned steps in which to engage impacted stakeholders to support them through the change.

Adjusting change approaches to fit in with virtual working

With the sudden switch to working from home or virtual working, some employees may not be familiar or comfortable with this way of working.  Existing change initiatives may have been designed with face-to-face sessions such as town halls, training sessions etc.  With the virtual working environment change practitioners need to readjust the change approach and think through ways of driving effective change virtually.

These include such as:

  • Effective virtual facilitation
  • Ability to use technology to aid engagement
  • More frequent communications than previously planned
  • Allowing more implementation time due to the challenges of virtual working

Continuous engagement of employees during this change

In order to proactively engage the employee during this time of change, follow core change principles.  For example, engage early and continuous to outline the direction of the organisation, and check-in continuously to gage employee sentiments to assess their change journey.  Adjust and pivot as needed to provide any additional support.  Share any wins such as examples of effective virtual working tips and employee profiles.  Share stories of how effective teams have overcome the potential challenges of social isolation and still deliver solid business outcomes.

Five agile change toolkits

Five agile change toolkits

The agile way of implementing changes has been popular for quite a number of years among a range of companies, from small startups through to large corporations. Most agile methodologies do not address the role of change management explicitly as a function. However, at the same time, most project practitioners agree that managing change is a critical skillset. In fact, surveys conducted by the Project Management Institute consistently found that change management is rated as one of the top skills for a project manager.

To find out more about agile methodology and embedding change management within it, please read our Ultimate Guide to Agile for Change Managers.

In this article, we will focus on a range of toolkits that support agile to help change managers implement change. Gone at the days when the change manager needs to work on large presentations and slides detailing every aspect of the plan. It was not uncommon to see more than 100 slides for a change plan. In the agile world, documentation is important but more important is the conversation and working with stakeholders.

Toolkit 1: Change Canvas

The change canvas or ‘change-on-a-page’ is a summary of the change plan. It follows a similar simple and summarised format as a Lean Canvas. The change canvas may be used to socialise what the change is about and the approach in implementing the change with a range of stakeholders.

Previous versions of the change canvas are often designed with more of a project plan slant. In the current version, we focus on a core set of questions that the change practitioner needs to answer in creating a change plan. To download the canvas click here.

Toolkit 2: Change experiment card

A core part of agile is about experimenting and iterating through a series of changes, versus planning one change. The idea is that each small change is an experiment with a hypothesis that can be tested and proven to be true or false using data. When the overall change becomes a series of smaller changes, each change iterates on the previous change. The overall risk of failure is reduced and each change is one step closer toward the ultimate successful end state.

Applying this concept in change management – The change experiment card is a template to help you design, plan and test your change experiment. To download the template please click here.

Change experiments can range from:

  • Project message positioning to stakeholders
  • Learning design effectiveness
  • Effectiveness of a communications channel in engaging with stakeholders
  • Change readiness tactic
  • Effectiveness of the change vision artefact

Toolkit 3: Behaviour over time graph

Plotting expected or actual stakeholder behaviour over time is an effective way to anticipate or track how they are experiencing change. It can provide significant insight on whether additional change interventions are required to shift the stakeholder towards the change process effectively, if there are any obstacles being faced or if the time taken along the change journey is the speed as anticipated.

Here is an example of a behaviour over time graph.

Change readiness over time plotted against change milestones

Toolkit 4: Connected circles analysis

The connected circles analysis chart can be used to understand the influencing powers of various stakeholders within the project. Agile projects are very much dependent on effective stakeholder engagement and collaboration. A range of stakeholders are thrown together within the same project from the beginning and there is a high expectation of successful collaboration and teamwork across the board. This analysis helps you to visualise the power dynamism and influence mechanisms amongst different stakeholders.

With the insight gained from this, the change manager can better focus on how to resolve any relationship issues, risks, and leverage the network to achieve better relationship and outcomes within the group.

Project stakeholder influence dynamics

Toolkit 5: Causal loop diagram

Systems thinking is critical in agile projects. Systems thinking means that you’re able to see the various components and how these components affect each other within the overall environment, or system. This contrasts with a linear view of A causing B or vice versa.

The causal loop diagram helps to flesh out and analysis key factors in the overall system and what causal relationship there are between different factors.

The below example shows employee sentiments toward a system change. This is a very simplified version of what happens since in real scenarios there could be various factors that are reinforcing each other, leading to lots of arrows pointing at different directions. At a more sophisticated level, you may assign points in terms of the strength of the causal relationship. At a basic level even plotting the causal relationship between a few key factors may generate key insight into the ‘why’ of the dynamics of a situation.

Causal loop diagram of the rationale of stakeholder sentiments

For those who work in organisations that are undergoing a significant number of agile changes, there needs to be a way to capture and visualise these changes so that the data can aid decision making for stakeholders. Using data visualisation, stakeholders can gain a better grasp of the various changes across the organisation and be able to understand key capacity challenges, crunch periods, the velocity of changes across time, and pinpoint particular parts of the organisation that may need extra support.

The following are key steps in which an organisation can leverage tools such as The Change Compass to derive one view of change and to better plan the implementation of changes. With embedded operational routines that regularly focus on change data in conjunction with other business and project data, the business is able to build its change capability through constant reviews, valuable stakeholder discussions, iterations on change tactics and adjusting plans to get ready for change.

To download this diagram click here.

The ultimate guide to measuring change

The ultimate guide to measuring change

A lot of change practitioners are extremely comfortable with saying that change management is about attitudes, behaviours, and feelings and therefore we cannot measure them. This metaphor that change management is ‘soft’ extends into areas such as leadership and employee engagement whereby it may not be easy to measure and track things. However, is it really that because something is harder to measure and less black and white that there is less merit in measuring these?

“If you can’t measure it you can’t improve it” Peter Drucker

The ‘why’ behind a lot of industry change in our day and age comes from the fact that data is now dominating our world. Data is a central part of everything that is changing in our world. Since we are now more reliant on the internet for information, the data that can be collected through our digital interactions around our lives are now driving change. Home assistant Alexa from Amazon can recognize our voices and tell us what we want to know. We can be identified through street cameras. Our Google usage leads to better-targeted advertisements and product promotions.   Our Facebook usage leads to a deep understanding of our preferences and lifestyles, and therefore we become targetted by advertisements for what we may find value in (according to Facebook data and algorithms).

So if our world is surrounded by data, why are we not measuring it in managing change? To answer this question let’s look at what we are or are not measuring.

These are some of the common ways in which change is often measured in projects:

1. Change readiness surveys

Change readiness surveys are usually online surveys sent by a project owner to understand how stakeholder groups are feeling about the change at different points in time throughout the project. It can be in the form on a Likert scale or free text. Most results are summarized into a quantitative scale of the degree in which the group is ready for change. A simple SurveyMonkey could be set up to measure stakeholder readiness for change. ChangeTracking (now part of Accenture) is a comprehensive online tool that measures the change journey and readiness of stakeholder groups throughout the initiative.

2. Training evaluation surveys

These evaluations are normally based on participant satisfaction across various categories such as content, instructor effectiveness, usefulness, etc. In a face-to-face training format, these surveys are normally paper-based so as to increase the completion rate. For online or virtual training, ratings may be completed by the user at the conclusion or after the session.

3. Communications metrics

One way in which communications may be measured is the ‘hit rate’ or the number of users/audience that views the article/material/page. This may be easily tracked using Google Analytics that not only tracks number of views per page but also viewership by the time of day/week as well as audience demographic information as such gender and geographical locations.

4. Employee sentiments/culture surveys

There are some organizations that measure employee sentiments or culture over the year and often there are questions that are linked to change. These surveys tend to be short and based on a Likert scale with less open-ended questions for qualitative feedback. Since these surveys are often sent across the entire organization they are a ‘catch-all’ yardstick and may not be specific to particular initiatives.

5. Change heatmaps

Some organizations devise change heatmaps on excel spreadsheets to try and map out the extent to which different business units are impacted by change. This artifact speaks to the amount of change and often leads to discussions concerning the capacity that the business has to ‘handle/digest’ change. The problem with most heatmaps is that they are usually categorized and rated by the creator of the artifact (or a limited number of people making judgments), and therefore subject to bias. Data that is based on 1 person’s opinions also tend not to have as much weight in a decision-making forum.

Change benefit tracking

In addition to typical change management measures, there are various initiatives-specific measures that focus on the actual outcome and benefit of the change with the goal of determining to what extent the change has taken place. Some example of this includes:

  • System usage rates

  • Cost reduction

  • Revenue increase

  • Transaction speed

  • Process efficiency

  • Speed of decision making

  • Customer satisfaction rate

  • Employee productivity rate

  • Incidents of process violation

Non-initiative based change management measures

There are two other measures that are used within an organizational vs. initiative-specific context, change leadership assessment and change maturity assessment. In the next section, we will discuss these two areas.

Change leadership assessment

David Miller from Changefirst wrote about 3 types of change leaders.:

1. The sponsor whose role is to drive the initiative to success from the beginning to the end. This involves possessing competencies in rallying and motivating people, building a strong network of sponsors and communicating clearly to various stakeholder groups.

2. The influencer whose role is to leverage their network and influence to market and garner the traction required to make the initiative successful. Four types of influencers as identified by Changefirst includes:

a) Advocates who are great at promoting and advocating the benefits of the change

b) Connectors who are able to link and leverage people across a part of the organization to support the change

c) Controllers who have control over access to information and people and these could include administrators and operations staff

d) Experts who are viewed by others in the organization as being technically credible

3. The change agent is someone who is tasked with supporting the overall change in various ways, including any promotional activities, gaging different parts of the organization on the change and be able to influence, up, down and sideways across the organization to drive a successful change outcome.

Whilst there isn’t one industry standard tool for assessing change leadership competencies and capabilities. There are various change leadership assessment tools offered by Changefirst as well as other various smaller consulting firms. One of the most comprehensive change leadership assessment tools is by ChangeTracking is the Change Capacity Assessment which is a self-assessment with the broad categories being Goal Attainment, Flexibility, Decision Making, and Relationship Building.

Some of the key competencies critical in change leadership have been called out by Pagon & Banutal (2008), and include:

  • Goal attainment

  • Assessing organizational culture and climate

  • Change implementation

  • Motivating and influencing others

  • Adaptability

  • Stakeholder management

  • Collaboration

  • Build organizational capacity and capability for change

  • Maneuvering around organizational politics

Change maturity assessment

Organisations are increasingly realising that managing change initiative by initiative is no longer going to cut it as it does not enable organizational learning and growth. Initiatives come and go and those who rely on contractor change managers often find that their ability to manage change as an organization does not mature much across initiatives.

Change maturity assessment is focused on building change capability across the organization across different dimensions, whether it be project change management or change leadership. The goal of conducting a change maturity assessment is to identify areas in which there may be a capability gap and therefore enable structured planning to close this gap.

There are 2 major change maturity assessment models available in the market. The first is by Prosci and the second is by the Change Management Institute. To read more about change maturity assessment read out article A New Guide for Improving Change Management Maturity, where we outline how to improve change maturity throughout different business units across the organization.

A comprehensive model of Change Management Measures

In this diagram various change management measures are represented along two axes, one being the different phases of the initiative lifecycle, and the other being different organizational levels of project, business and enterprise in which change management measures fall into.

Project level measures

‘Plan’ phase

In this phase of the project, the team is discovering and scoping what the project involves and what the change is. As a result, the details are not known clearly at the commencement of the phase. Later in the phase the scope becomes much clearer and the team starts to plan what activities are required to implement the change.

  • The change complexity assessment evaluates how complex the project is. It looks at how many people could be impacted, what the size of the impact could be, how many business units are impacted, whether multiple systems and processes are impacted, etc.

  • Change resourcing costing. At the planning phase of the project cost required for the change management stream of the work is required. This includes such as any contractors, communication campaigns, learning cost, travel, and administration cost, just to name a few.

  • Change readiness assessment is usually conducted prior to the change and during the change. Usually, the same set of questions is asked of various stakeholder groups to assess their readiness for change.

‘Execute’ phase

The execute phase is one of the most critical parts of the project. Activities are in full flight and the project is busy iterating and re-iterating changes to ensure successful execution to achieve project goals.

  • Communication and engagement tracking. Effective engagement of stakeholders in the change is absolutely critical. Stakeholder interviews, surveys, communication readership rates are all ways in which engagement may be tracked.

  • Learning tracking. Measuring learning is critical since it tracks to what extent the new competencies and skills have been acquired through learning interventions. Typical measurements include course tests or quizzes in addition to course evaluations. On the job performance may also be used to track learning outcomes and to what extent learning has been applied in the work setting.

  • Change readiness assessment continues to be critical to track during the execution phase of the project

‘Realise’ phase

In this phase of the project the change has ‘gone live’ and most project activities have been completed. It is anticipated in this phase that the ‘change’ occurs and that the benefits can then be tracked and measured.

  • Change benefit tracking measures and tracks the extent to which the targeted benefits and outcomes have been achieved. Some of these measures may be ‘hard’ quantitative measures whilst others may be ‘soft’ measures that are more behavioural.

Business level measures

Business level measures are those that measure to what extent the business has the right ability, capacity, and readiness for the change.

  • Change heatmaps can help to visualize which part of the business is most impacted by 1 project or multiple projects. The power of the change heatmap is in visualizing which part of the business is the most impacted, and to compare the relative impacts across businesses. As the number of change initiatives increase so would the complexity of the change. When facing this situation organisations need to graduate from relying on excel spreadsheets to using more sophisticated data visualization tools to aid data-based decision making. To read more about change heatmaps and why this is not the only way to understand business change impact, go to The Death of the Change Heatmap.

  • Sponsor readiness/capability assessment can be a critical tool to help identify any capability gaps in the sponsor so that effort may be taken to support the sponsor. A strong and effective sponsor can make or break a change initiative. Early engagement and support of the sponsor are critical. Both Prosci, as well as Changefirst, have sponsor competency assessment offerings.

  • Change champion capability assessment. Change champion or change agent are critical ‘nodes’ in which to drive and support change within the organizational network. A lot of change champions are appointed only for one particular initiative. Having a business-focus change champion network means that their capability can be developed over time, and they can support multiple initiatives and not just one. Assessing and supporting change champion capability would also directly translate to better change outcomes.

  • Change leadership and change maturity assessment – refer to the previous section

  • Change capacity assessment.

In an environment where there is significant change happening concurrently, careful planning and sequencing of change in balance with existing capacity are critical. There are several aspects of change capacity that should be called out in the measurement process:

  1. Different parts of the business can have different capacity for change. Those parts of the business with better change capability, and perhaps with better change leadership, are often able to receive and digest more changes than other businesses that do not possess the same level of capability.

  2. Some businesses are much more time-sensitive and therefore their change capacity needs to be measured with more granularity. For example, call centre staff capacity is often measured in terms of minutes. Therefore, to effectively plan for their change capacity, the impacts of change needs to be quantified and articulated in a precise, time-bound context so that effective resourcing can be planned in advance.

  3. The change tolerance or change saturation level for business needs careful measurement in combination with operational feedback to determine. For example, it could be that last month a part of the business experienced significant change impact across several initiatives happening at the same time. The operational indicators were that there was some impact on customer satisfaction, productivity, and there were negative sentiments reported by staff that there was too much change to handle. This could mean that the change tolerance level may have been exceeded. With the right measurement of change impact levels for that part of the business, next time this level of change is seen, previous lessons may be utilized to plan for this volume of change. Utilise measurement and data visualization tools such as the Change Compass to track change capacity.

Enterprise level change measures

At an enterprise level, many of the business unit level measures are still applicable. However, the focus is comparing across different business units to sense-make what each part of the business is going through and if the overall picture is aligned with the intentions and the strategic direction of the organization. For example, typical questions include:

  • Is it surprising that one part of the business is undergoing significant change whilst another is not?

  • Is there a reason that one business unit is focused on a few very large changes whilst for other business units there is a larger set of changes each with smaller impacts?

  • Is the overall pace of change optimum according to strategic intent? Does it need to speed up or slow down?

  • What is the process to govern, report and make decisions on enterprise level change, prioritization, sequencing and benefit realization?

  • Is there one business unit that is able to manage change more effectively, faster with greater outcomes? How can other business units leverage any internal best practices?

As mentioned in the Change Management Measures diagram, some enterprise level change measures include:

  • Change capacity assessment – Does one business unit’s change capacity limits mean that we are not able to execute on a critical strategy within the allocated time? How do we create more capacity?   Ways in which to create more capacity could include more resources such as staff, or initiative funding, more time is given, or more talent to lead initiatives

  • Change maturity assessment – At an enterprise level, the concern is with the overall change maturity of the organization. How do we implement enterprise level interventions to build change maturity through programs, networks, and exchanges, such as:

    • Enterprise change capability programs

    • Enterprise change analytics and measurement tools

    • Enterprise change methodology

    • Enterprise network of change champions

  • Strategy impact map – Change management need not be focused only on project execution or business unit capability. It can also demonstrate value at an enterprise level by focusing on strategy execution (which by definition is change). The way in which different strategies exert impact on various business units may be visualized to help stakeholder understand which initiatives within which strategic intent impact which business units.  To illustrate this please refer to the below diagram which is an example of a strategy impact map. In this diagram, each of the organisation’s strategy is displayed with different initiatives branching out of each strategy. The width of each initiative correlates with the level of impact that the initiative has on the business over a pre-determined period of time. Therefore, the width of each strategy also indicates the overall relative impact on the business.

This data visualization artifact can be valuable for business leaders and strategic planning functions as it depicts visually how the implementation of various strategies is impacting business units.   This helps planners to better understand strategy implementation impacts, potential risks and opportunities, and balancing change pace with strategy goals at various points in time.

  • Predictive indicators on business performance – We started this article talking about how data is all around us and we also need to better manage change using data. With quantitative data on change impact, it is possible to ascertain any correlations with operational business indicators such as customer satisfaction, service availability, etc. For those business indicators where there is a significant correlation, it is possible to hence use predictive reporting to forecast performance indicator trends, given planned change impacts.

In the below graph you can see an example of this whereby using historical data it is possible to establish correlations and therefore forecast future impact on business indicators. This example is focused on the customer contact centre (CCC) and key business indicator of average handling time (AHT) is utilized as an illustration.