We’ve all heard about how change is the only constant and that change is intensifying and not going away. On top of increasing digitisation, we have Covid, extreme weather disruptions as well as other company changes. Not all changes can be planned for. Change is a balancing act, requiring significant skill and management. The analogy comes to mind of a spinning plate circus act. Each plate needs attention and constant spinning. The problem is when you have 10, 50, or 100+ these plates, it becomes almost impossible to pay attention to every single one across the company.
This is exactly why it is so critical to have a single view of change. When you are only spinning a few plates you can easily see them all and have enough attention and bandwidth to ensure they are all spinning effectively. When the number and intensity of change multiples, this becomes tricky. Without a single view of change, how can any organisation manage change across the board? This is exactly the problem.
For most companies, each project team is organised as a separate team, with a separate set of stakeholders. Multiply this by the number of projects and you get the problem. The number of silos that is each project creates significant complexity for the organisations. These include:
- At any one time, there will be multiple projects impacting the same part of the business. Since each project is only focused about its own activities, they are mostly not aware of project activities from other projects that are impacting the same stakeholders.
- For the same group of stakeholders there may be very different ways of engagement and change journeys required. Too many different types of change can make it difficult for the impacted stakeholders to digest. Also, these changes, when combined, may or may not support the business objectives of that particular part of the business.
- Some PMOs try to contain this complexity by creating different portfolios in which to group projects. The thinking is that each of the portfolio managers can manage a set of projects and can try to help join the dots where possible to coordinate the various releases and implementation of projects within each portfolio. However, managing too many portfolios can create even more complexity and thereby be less agile for the organisation. Also, most project portfolio managers are typically focused more on technical activities and releases, and less on resultant people impacts.
Why create a single view of change?
1. Change saturation and limited capacity
The first reason for creating a single view of change is to assess the risk for and avoid change saturation. There is evidence from several surveys including that from Prosci showing that change saturation/fatigue is one of the biggest challenges for organisations in undergoing change. The pressure to change fast and still maintain business performance is real and impacts a wide range of industries.
2. Business capacity.
Even if there was not a risk of change saturation and fatigue, there is constantly a challenge of limited business capacity to undergo change versus ‘keeping the lights on’ activities, or on executing business-as-usual tasks. This includes both the capacity to undergo change for those impacted by the change, and also for subject-matter-experts from the business who may be pulled by multiple projects and thereby have limited bandwidth.
3. Change portfolio management
The first 2 points are of a business lense, in terms of business-related change impacts across projects. However, from a change portfolio perspective, it also makes sense to have a single view of change to better manage a change portfolio.
What is offered by a single view of change that is meeting a gap with the data captured by existing PMO is, change impact. This change impact includes types of stakeholders, roles, the parts of the organisations, and how they are impacted by change. Data may capture the extent of the change effort required, the time required to undergo change activities, and even behaviours required as a part of the transformation.
With a single view of change, the project portfolio can be better managed in terms of:
- Project change resource allocation
- Project release coordination and harmonisation and how they impact stakeholders
- Change execution design across projects
- Examine opportunities to create ‘change bundles’ where it makes sense, or to break down change releases into smaller pieces if that is a better fit for the business
- Monitor operational risks across change releases
The ultimate goal of creating a single view of change is to maximise change adoption across the board. An impacted stakeholder group is likely going to experience multiple changes. If there is a way to design a change adoption process that makes it easier for the stakeholders it will significantly increase the likelihood of achieving full change adoption.
As a real example, at a major bank, the same group of stakeholders was asked by one project lead by the Product division to prepare for the end of life of a credit card. They were asked to tell customers that this card will not only be sold after a certain date. On the other hand, another project led by Marketing was telling the same groups of stakeholders to sell more of this credit card to try and meet their quarterly target. Needless to say, this type of confusing message will not serve well to achieve any of the project change adoption targets.
5. Risk in change
Change risk management is an emerging discipline and growing in importance for Chief Risk Officers. This is particularly the case for financial services corporations. Risk in change is about how the organisation is managing the risks with undergoing the committed changes in a way that allows them to operate safely. A key challenge is the visibility of the various changes presented in a way that allows the business to visualise these changes to be able to see the associated risks. A single view of change can add significant value from a risk lens.
If having a single view of change is so critical why is it that not more organisations have this? Here are some key reasons:
- Perceived difficulty in capturing a single view of change. Most change practitioners will think of the vast number of projects that need to be engaged to create this view and the time it takes to do this.
- How to capture the single view of change. With the various types of data available in each initiative some get overwhelmed and are not able to pinpoint exactly what information is required to be captured.
- How to report on a single view of change. Most opt for a simple traffic light showing red, amber, and green of the varying levels of impact of each project. The problem is that this is not always based on data (instead, based on personal judgement), and is often not quite granular enough to make this useful.
One of the key benefits of a single view of change is that it is critical in supporting the work of managing a change portfolio to make the right decisions to manage change holistically. To find out more about how to calculate the financial benefit of managing a change portfolio visit our article here.
Solution on building a single view of change quickly
There are several approaches to building a single view of change quickly. As a first step, it’s important to define what outcome is required and how the artifacts might be used to make impactful business decisions. Focus on capturing the impact of change per initiative as a starter, detailing different levels of impact of the initiative based on actual impact activities of each initiative, versus using high-level personal judgment (which may be hard to defend in front of senior managers).
1. Focus on one part of the business to capture a single view of change
It’s important to note that a single view of change should always be showing the view from the business stakeholders’ perspective, versus from a project/program perspective. A way to kickstart the process with a more achievable target is to select one part of the business to start focusing on. Ideally, choose a part of the business that is concerned about change volume and would like to use the reports developed with a single view of change.
Ensure you get these stakeholders onboard, and involve those who ‘feel the pain’ of change complexity. These stakeholders can be your change champions in supporting the development and utilisation of a single view of change.
2. Focus on a smaller set of initiatives as a start
Again, rather than trying to capture every initiative in one go, start by selecting a group of initiatives, either within a portfolio or a large program. It can also be that you start by focusing on the more ‘strategic initiatives that are of higher visibility to stakeholders. These initiatives are also easier to define.
3. Conduct workshops to quickly gather data
One of the best ways to collect data quickly is to gather these in structured workshops. In each of the workshops you have a representative from each project attending, either a change manager or a project manager. In the workshop you talk through the data you are trying to capture and work with the group to capture them. During the session, it is also a good idea to view the data collected and clarify as needed to ensure the data is spot on.
It is a good idea prior to the workshop to provide a simple template for participants to do the pre-work, identifying the change impact activities for their respective projects. Be clear in defining what these change impact activities mean, providing examples to show them the types of data you are after.
Here is a sample timeline for creating a single view of change:
3. Utilise digital tools to automate and speed up the process
Using an Excel spreadsheet may be a good way to go in the beginning, but for organisations that have a digital focus, leveraging digital tools make perfect sense. Using change management tools that help you piece together a single view of change with all the fields and reports already built can save significant time and effort. With the ease to support for ongoing data collection, and reporting significant time and resources are saved. In addition, a good tool can help provide additional insight into what is happening to the organisation that manual ways may not generate. The ability to add significant value through data-backed insight that can significantly influence change implementation is one of the key advantages of leveraging a digital tool.
Moreover, a single view of change should not a static artifact. Instead, it should be a live data source that is constantly changing as the organisation undergoes various changes. In a fast-paced change environment, it is even more critical to have the right digital tool to provide clear tracking and reporting.
In conclusion, creating a single view of change can be one of the most value-adding work that the change practitioner can undertake. If done right, it can make a significant impact on the overall change portfolio and change adoption across initiatives. Though, there is work involved in gathering the data, by structuring the work through workshops the work can be done within weeks. A single view of change should not be a one-off artifact. Instead, it should be an ongoing process in which to constantly generate engaging and impactful data visualisations to influence business insight and decision making.
If you are about to embark on creating a single view of change and are thinking about whether to or how to leverage a digital offering to support your efforts reach out and have a chat with us.