Focus on Managing Multiple Changes
The pace of innovation continues to increase and many new changes impact the same groups of people often simultaneously. How do we juggle the impacts and what benefits can be captured by viewing the entire portfolio of changes.
Change management helps organisations and people adopt changes. It is most often thought of and practised in the context of an individual initiative of a project. Life, however, is not that simple. Almost all the time, there are multiple changes underway in an organisation, often involving the same people. The resultant increase in volume and complexity of changes often cause;
- Change saturation – individuals and organisations experience more change than can be absorbed
- Change collision – too much change is happening at once, resulting in conflicts in focus, resources and adoption.
These symptoms can have serious consequences;
- disengagement, confusion and stress for individuals
- lack of necessary resources, missing targeted benefits, delinquent leaders at an organisational level. In Prosci’s recent research, 78% of respondents said their organisations were nearing, at, or past the point of change saturation. So this phenomenon is rife in many organisations.
Change Portfolio Management is a structured approach and set of tools for managing the cumulative and collective impact of a ‘portfolio’ of change. Change Portfolio Management introduces a more holistic, high-level view of all the simultaneous changes underway. There are, however, a few issues to consider when one is trying to analyse a portfolio of change.
Prosci recommends considering specific factors before taking action to manage the change portfolio, Popular amongst these are;
Decide on the breadth of the change portfolio. What determines which changes are ‘in’ and which are ‘out’ of scope? Do we delineate by type of change, function affected, size of change. This decision is often needed from Steering boards or other high-level structures.
There is little point in assessing a portfolio of change if there is no latitude to adjust elements of it. Typically the factors that Steering boards would want to have control over include; timing, budget, project team size, the scope of change, to name a few. We should limit the data considered and analysed to the elements that we have some influence or control.
Once you select the change portfolio scope, consideration is given to the key factors of influence and resources. The Prosci Portfolio Scaling Plot tool incorporates influence and resources which show the portfolio relative to the types and number of changes in the organisation, your level of influence, and your available resources. Depending on how these map there are different actions that will help us manage the portfolio.
Our experience at assisting organisations trying to manage portfolios of change
Over the past 12 years, we have engaged with customers who decided to tackle the issue of saturation and collision, via the management of portfolios of change and we have observed that;
- the endeavour is not trivial. It requires careful planning and stakeholder engagement
- The establishment of scope can be a challenging task, but most frequently works best when we start small
- The insight from research that suggests that we focus on issues like scope and influence are useful items to keep in mind and may require some coalition-building from sponsors of this change
- This process is a journey. As the organisation engages in the process of portfolio optimisation it learns about itself, the kinds of changes it finds easier or more challenging to make
However, the most critical observation we have made is that managing a portfolio of change highlights how important it is for an organisation to build a capability to change, which goes beyond building competency in change management, although this is an essential component of capability. It also often leads to a closer questioning by organisations of the fit of the changes to their strategy. It can be an easy trap to fall into where an organisation makes changes because ‘it can’ rather than because these are vital to achieving its business strategy. To avoid this trap, we usually execute a process of alignment between strategy and capability. So, portfolio change management does not only deliver benefit for the portfolios they manage but contribute to building a capability to change for the whole organisation; a quest worth its effort.
 2018 Prosci Bets practices in Change Management