Photo Credit: Rich Faber
The absence of an overall initiative alignment and integration strategy results in change being run through multiple, separate, or competing sub-projects. It also results in initiatives being led as independent efforts, even when many may interface or impact one another or the same parts of the organization.This demonstrates a lack of sufficient alignment and integration among all the changes required for an overall change program. Without it, leading transformational change can be more like herding cats. What is needed is making them all a part of one unified effort with an overall change strategy that integrates outcomes, plans, resources, and pace.
Signs that Your Initiative is in Need
If you are hearing some of the following complaints from your stakeholders and change leaders, you may need an alignment and to create an integration strategy:
“There are too many changes happening to me at the same time! Which am I supposed to do first?”
“Do our leaders have any idea of the confusion and disconnect created by all they are trying to change and my reality down here?”
“I can’t get my initiative to move ahead until George does his project, and he is stalled out. It’s not fair!”
“I need those resources for my project and Mary is hoarding them!”
“My initiative impacts Joe’s project, but these impacts are not a part of my scope or his. Is there no coordination here?”
The Consequences of Not Having an Alignment and Overarching Strategy
A common consequence of not having an enterprise change agenda and overarching change strategy is the disorderliness and confusion caused by unleashing many diverse, disconnected, and often incomplete change initiatives on the organization. The predictable result is overwhelm, a waste of critical resources, a lot of political dynamics, and ultimately, an impact on the ROI of the initiatives. When you have not scoped or organized your change initiatives from an enterprise perspective, leaders of individual initiatives typically compete with one another or think only of their own initiative’s needs, often causing all the initiatives to fall short of expectations. When there is no change portfolio strategy for the enterprise, it is impossible to get all the work organized, streamlined, and efficient. The same dynamics often occur even when you have organized the work into work streams. Consider: How do projects or work streams they interface? Who oversees their pace, resources, sequence, and impacts on the organization? Who resolves their pinch points?
Goals for Creating an Integration Strategy and Alignment
First Goal: Alignment Among Initiatives
When leading large-scale changes, unify as many of your major initiatives as you can into one overarching theme that directly supports your business vision and strategy. Think of this strategy as creating an umbrella under which all work streams and initiatives have their place and take guidance to support the overall outcome. This alignment allows you to ensure you have clarified a common and relevant outcome, named all the change initiatives required to achieve that outcome (although not at once), and deliver an aligned, fully functioning future state. When you create an integration strategy and alignment it enables greater leverage, smarter sequencing and pacing decisions, and a much more realistic assessment of time and resource requirements. Share this and your desired outcome at your very first kick-off communication. That will help your stakeholders understand how the work is organized and what it is intending to produce.
Second Goal: Integration Among Interdependent Initiatives
Run your many initiatives using a multiple project integration strategy. This enables you to assess – from the enterprise view – the best sequence and pacing of changes, prioritization of work, and allocation of resources. It can ensure intelligent “air traffic control,” and help you minimize pinch points, reduce redundancies, and accelerate your desired business and cultural results. It also helps align all your work stream and initiatives leads to support the overarching outcome over their individual agendas.
Succeeding at project integration requires several proven approaches.
Determine which of your initiatives interface or butt up against each other. This may mean they need to be consciously sequenced or they impact the same parts of the organization or stakeholder groups. It may mean they compete for the same resources or require conflicting cultural norms to obtain their outcomes. Include all of them in your strategy. This step is only to identify which initiatives to include in your strategy… you are not yet resolving the conflicts.
Design a formal integration team and a meeting cadence for the leaders of these initiatives to meet, discuss, and resolve integration needs or issues on a regular basis. This meeting is typically led by the overarching change process leader or change portfolio manager. The meeting’s purpose is to map out how to coordinate action, streamline the work, reduce redundancies, make the best use of resources, and remedy potential conflicts. Make the decision authority levels clear so this team can make real progress as the initiatives roll out and obtain your sponsor’s agreement.
Establish a shared willingness for change leaders to surface integration needs and opportunities as they arise, before they become points of contention or struggle. Encourage the impacted leaders to meet with each other as a small group as soon as they can to resolve issues rather than waiting for your larger formal team to meet.
Communicate actual adjustments to individual work stream or initiatives plans to your stakeholders so they stay informed of plans and expectations impacting them. Let them know that these course corrections are best for the overall outcome of the changes.