One of the most important variables in leading transformational change initiatives is having an accurate scope of change—what needs to change and how big is the impact. When change leaders can’t see all the implications of what they are asking of the organization, it is common that the scope they identify is too small or only addresses the formal content of the change and leaves out the people dynamics essential to success. Both are essential to plan, resource, and support.
Do you experience any of these indications that the scope of your change initiative is not complete?
You are stymied by scope creep.
Your change leaders give the initiative team a scope of change that is too narrow or that is not inclusive enough for your solution to function effectively in the organization following deployment.
Your scope is limited by the timetable (or budget) you have been given to complete the deployment.
Your stakeholders rebel because they see impacts on them that your scope does not remedy.
The organization’s culture works against making the new solution stick.
Why Change Initiative Scope Gets Misdiagnosed
Most executives have spent their careers focusing on business strategy, structure, systems, processes, technology, job functions, and competencies. Therefore, when determining scope of a major change initiative, these are the usually the elements that get the leaders’ attention.
Unfortunately, focusing on these tangible aspects of the organization, however relevant to the solution they might be, is not sufficient for creating an adequate scope or for ensuring a sustainable outcome. Leaders must understand and recognize other dynamics affecting the success of a change initiative, such as the other affected parts of the organization, and the human realities (e.g. mindsets, behavior, and emotional reactions) of the stakeholders who must adopt the change. Leaders also need to address the cultural norms working for or against your goals.
A focus that is too narrow causes leaders to misdiagnose what the change entails. For example, one of the most common illusions in organizational change is that changing structure means moving around the boxes, reassigning reporting relationships, and altering the head count. In reality, when you change structure, there is often a significant impact on organizational systems and processes, decision-making, knowledge management, and technology. There is also considerable impact on the human factors of culture, mindset, working relationships, behavior, politics, etc. The real scope is often larger than leaders think, and to succeed, you must be conscious of and attend to all dynamics and issues at play.
Considering the impact of a change initiative on people should not be an after-thought. The earlier in the change process these impacts can be addressed, the less they will cost the organization. What would it take for you to proactively plan to minimize the negative impact on your stakeholders? Many leaders do not consider people dynamics as part of their initial scope (or budget). They believe that handling human dynamics is the job of the change management professionals they engage after the design of their solution is complete. However, people dynamics take time, effort, and resources to address. They frequently require intentional planning, concurrent with the design of the solution, since the solution is what triggers these dynamics. The earlier in the change process you account for them, the better!
A Formula for Failure
Changing individual pieces of your organization, such as a management process like supply chain, or structure, without aligning the other interconnected organizational and human aspects required to produce and sustain your results, is a formula for failure. All the organizational elements impacted will be effected whether you plan for them or not. But if you misdiagnose scope and neglect these elements, the changes to them will be chaotic, uncontrollable, and many times significantly counter-productive to what you are trying to accomplish. Think about the confusion generated from changing structure and not addressing new decision-making authorities, information flow, and management accountabilities, or reestablishing new reporting or partnering relationships. If you are changing a management process, think about what might occur if you do not also address the political struggles of people whose authority is changed by the new process, or the way information is provided or reported is changed. These may sound like subtle dynamics, but they can have show-stopping influence on success!
Creating an Accurate Scope
To avoid issues stemming from inaccurate scope, carefully assess the true scope of your change efforts from the start, and design your change strategy to support everything within that scope (including the budget for it) from the beginning. Step out of your silo and take an enterprise view! Keep both the impacts on other parts of your organization and the human and cultural dimensions in mind when assessing the scope of your change. When designing your solution, discuss how the new reality will look when it is operating in full swing, and identify all the organization, human, and cultural factors that need to be in place, or altered, to make it work most effectively.