How much change is too much? Change saturation conceptualizes how much change is going on in the organization (change disruption) compared to how much change the organization can handle (change capacity). An organization is at or past the point of change saturation when there are so many changes going on that it can no longer effectively handle additional changes. In other words, when change disruption is greater than change capacity.

Organizations are dealing with more and more change

Amount of change expected in next two years

A growing number of organizations are experiencing change saturation and foresee even more changes coming their way in the future. Of the 650 organizations that participated in Prosci's 2011 Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking study, a majority (71%) expected the amount of change to increase in the next two years. Only 8% expected the amount of organizational change to decrease.

 

 

These expectations were spot on. Since Prosci's 2007 study, the percentage of participants nearing, at or past the point of saturation has continued to increase. Seventy-three percent of participants in the 2011 study said they were past, at or nearing the point of change saturation, up from 66% in 2009 and 59% in 2007. And the trend continues, as Prosci's 2013 study has found that 77% of respondents are past, at or nearing the saturation point. 

Level of change saturation

Consequences of too much change

The amount of change that an organization can or cannot handle is not fixed nor is it arbitrary. Organizations reach change saturation because no one has a high-level view of the entire portfolio of change and the collective impact of those changes on employees. In many organizations, it's a common practice to manage the project portfolio, but this practice does not provide a view of how all of the projects going on impact the people. When the cumulative and collective impact of change is not monitored and managed, people-side consequences arise, which will prevent us from fully achieving the project objectives of each individual change. The consequences can be seen at the individual, project, and organizational levels.

At the individual level in a change saturated environment, employees can become disengaged, frustrated, fatigued, resistant, confused, and more cynical and skeptical of the current changes underway and future changes being introduced because they are already dealing with so much change.

At the project level in a change saturated environment, change projects do not realize benefits, there is a lack of resources to devote to each project, changes are not sustained, and projects fail to gain momentum because priorities are ignored and resources are scarce.

Each of these levels will no doubt have an impact on the organizational level. An organization that is operating at or past the point of change saturation can experience higher turnover, declined productivity, increased absenteeism, loss of focus on business basics, and negative morale.

These consequences are the result of undertaking more change than an organization can handle while neglecting to manage the cumulative changes as a whole. Fortunately, the consequences can be mitigated by establishing, managing and monitoring the portfolio of changes going on in the organization.

Managing the portfolio of change

Prosci Change Portfolio Management Process

Recall that, even though your organization might already be managing a project portfolio, portfolio management on the technical side doesn't provide a view of the impact on people. Prosci has a process that adds the people dimension to portfolio management. The Prosci Change Portfolio Management Process follows a solid framework and integrates tools that can be applied to minimize and altogether avoid the individual, project, and organizational level consequences of change saturation. The process consists of five phases for mapping, establishing and managing the change portfolio.

This process and supporting tools are found in Prosci's Change Portfolio Toolkit, which offers guidance for getting your change portfolio off the ground and providing benefit so that your organization can better handle change saturation.

"The ultimate goal of change portfolio management is to help the organization perform better. When organizations are plagued by change saturation and collision of initiatives and projects, everyone suffers. Employees become stressed, confused and frustrated. Changes that are necessary for success fall short and overall productivity and performance decline."

 -Excerpt from Prosci's Change Portfolio Toolkit

The Prosci Change Portfolio Management Process & Change Portfolio Toolkit

Phase 1: Identify 

What you will do:

  • Establish the playing field for the portfolio analysis by setting boundaries on the scope of the portfolio - is the portfolio being established for a division, a department or the entire organization?
  • The Change Portfolio Toolkit will help guide you in creating an inventory of the current changes and a listing of different groups in the organization that are being impacted.

Examples of tools provided:

  • Change capacity worksheet
  • Scope statement
  • Change inventory worksheet
  • Groups inventory worksheet

Phase 2: Investigate

What you will do:

  • Learn about each change - bring into focus the changes that are part of the portfolio.
  • Prosci's toolkit will help you identify what data to collect and offers assessments that you can use with each change to understand the impacts they have on the organization.
  • Create a "heat map" showing which groups are impacted and to what degree. The heat map is a great tool for communicating about the impact of a change and bringing more clarity to the portfolio.

Examples of tools provided:

  • Change Scorecard
  • Change characteristics assessment
  • Organizational attributes assessment
  • Prosci PCT assessment
  • Group Impact Matrix

Phase 3: Analyze

What you will do:

  • Create the portfolio perspective. Prosci's toolkit will support you in creating a number of representations of the portfolio of change.
  • These different perspectives will give you a clearer picture of the change your organization is facing and the implications of the portfolio.

Examples of tools provided:

  • Change Heat Maps
  • Organizational Heat Map
  • People risk plot & worksheet
  • Portfolio Dashboard
  • Changes & groups at risk worksheets

Phase 4: Act

What you will do:

  • Complete your mapping work by presenting the portfolio and associated analysis to senior leaders.
  • Encourage them to take action and support your efforts in continually managing the portfolio.

Examples of tools provided:

  • Point-in-time worksheet
  • Tips for effective portfolio presentation
  • Presentation template
  • Portfolio action checklist

Phase 5: Monitor, Manage and Control

What you will do:

  • Make the change portfolio part of the ongoing operations of the organization. This final phase ensures ongoing management of the portfolio.
  • Examine how to handle changes that enter the portfolio and those that exit the portfolio.
  • Learn how to conduct analysis on the impact of the portfolio when new changes are proposed.
  • The toolkit will present systems for monitoring the impact of the portfolio on the people of the organization.

Examples of tools provided:

  • New change worksheet
  • Change effort "exit interview" worksheet
  • Learning from changes leaving the portfolio
  • ECM components worksheet
  • ECM assessment

Conclusion

When you take on the project of change portfolio management, you become a very valuable resource. You are able to provide the organization with consistent information and a high-level view of the portfolio of change. You provide information that is critical to better performance and improvement. The Change Portfolio Toolkit enables you to:

  • Document the numerous changes impacting your organization
  • Collect pertinent and consistent data on each change
  • Create an executive-level presentation to show how the changes impact and interact with one another
  • Provide a foundation for making more effective decisions about the portfolio of change in your organization

Intro to Change Portfolio Management

Written by
Tim Creasey
Tim Creasey

Tim Creasey is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and a globally recognized leader in change management. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on managing the people side of change to deliver organizational results.

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