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Planning for Change

By: Jorge Taborga | 07 May | 0 comments


In my previous post, I introduced four dimensions of change that should be assessed to determine if there is a strong case for it, including its readiness. In this post, I describe how to plan for change, in particular, how to plan for initiating change.

My fascination with change is twofold. First, I believe that life is in continuous evolution and incessantly changing. And, second, I believe evolution leads to higher complexity, which requires a greater ability to handle change. One of the capabilities that can assist us with both of these notions is planning. 

My approach for planning to initiate change is comprised of nine causal variables. They are causal because they impact each other forming feedback loops. They structure a system with reinforcing and balancing loops that ultimately address the urgency for the change. The following explanations correspond to each of the nine variables in a plan to initiate change.

1. Reason for the Change

This part of the plan captures the reasons for the change. This is the starting point and the variable that drives all of the others. After change takes place, this variable should reflect a new state for the entire system. There are different ways to capture reasons for change. It is important that the reasons be clear and delimit the boundaries of the problem. Unbounded or poorly bounded problems result in incomplete or inadequately implemented change.

2. Problems to Solve and Other Opportunities

This contains the description of the problems the change will address. The problems need to be easily recognizable by the organization. Ideally, you leverage data to substantiate them. In this section, you should also identify opportunities that the change will bring beyond just fixing the problems. More often than not, changes provide "icing on the cake" opportunities that make them more palatable and provide the excitement necessary for people to get on board with the change.

3. Proposed Solution(s)

This part of the plan captures the vision of the ideal future and the solutions that need to be implemented to get there.  There are various approaches depending on the change that can be utilized to develop the vision and an implementation path. Backcasting is a great process for developing the image of the ideal state. Bela Banathy introduced the concept of the evolutionary guidance system that contains the elements of the ideal solution. Evolutionary systems can be developed from this ideal solution, which contain intermediate advances toward the goal. At change initiation there is usually not great specificity of the actual, intermediate solution, but there should be a very solid definition of the guidance system.

4. People and Other Resources

This section documents the people needed to drive the change. Typically, change requires a leader, a cross-functional leadership team, and a change team to develop the solutions. Depending on the size of the organization, this population could be small or quite large. The change team has to big enough to be representative of the organization but small enough to get real work done. The change leaders could be part of the change team but could also be different. They need to be the key influencers in the organization, like the CEO and senio executives. All change needs a leader and one should be identified, proposed, or at least indicated in the change plan.

This section of the plan should also identify other resources needed for the change, such as external consultants, and any tools that may need to be acquired. A description of the population affected by the change should also be part of this section. Details of any differences for this population regarding the change should be noted. The change may not be applied equally to the entire population and it may be stratified.

5. Resistance to Change

Here's where the actual and potential resistance to change is documented. Kurt Lewin’s force field analysis is a good tool to document resistance to change and also the force aiding the change. The objective of this section is to fully identify the sources of resistance to the change so that plans can be developed to address it.

6. Adaptation to Change

This section of the plan proposes the activities to get the population affected by the change to a point where the change is fully assimilated. This is, by far, the most important part of the change. Not understanding how to facilitate adaptation will result in a "bad" change. This section should capture how change will be managed. The adaptation activities may include all hands meetings, additional communication, a social media page to capture input and involve others, an informative Wiki website, a Twitter account where the activities for the change are communicated, and training.

7. Change Work Plan

The change plan could follow any of the standard change models. John Kotter and Bob Doppelt are examples of experts that have developed change models based on research and success criteria. It is best to pick a change framework with demonstrated success to build an overall work plan and timeline.

8. Required Funding

This is the variable and part of the plan that summarizes the costs necessary to implement the change. Ideally, a detailed cost analysis has been developed that captures the major sources of cost.

9. Business Case

This is the last variable and it's the part of the plan that summarizes what is being proposed. This is the takeaway for the decision-makers involved with the change. Think of it as the executive summary. One new piece of information in this section is the analysis of the risks involved with the proposed change. Also, if there are financial benefits, this section should contain an ROI analysis. Ideally, the business case should pass the four tests defined in my previous post.

Change is inevitable and good planning goes a long way to guide it.

Read other posts by Jorge Taborga

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