Continuous change is common today. Organizations everywhere are stepping up their change management processes, engaging key people, and implementing successful initiatives. But what happens when too many project changes begin to take a physical and emotional toll on your people?
Change saturation occurs in organizations when disruptive changes exceed your capacity to adopt them. Your organization is likely saturated when turmoil becomes the norm, projects can’t be prioritized easily, bottlenecks begin to slow progress, and project outcomes begin to suffer.
When the organization suffers from change saturation, employees begin to suffer too, exhibiting signs of change fatigue on both personal and professional levels. It’s easy to see why. Change is everywhere, bombarding them from all directions. New technology, organizational restructuring, political upheaval, complex regulatory requirements, global corporate expansion, ongoing digitalization, and much more. On top of that, the level of connectivity we work with today creates an always-on mentality that can wear people down.
Changes pressuring your mission and strategy today
(Source: Prosci Webinar, Organizational Agility: A Strategic Imperative)
Although everyone feels the impacts of change, Prosci Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking research shows that individuals in certain functional areas experience more change saturation than others. For example, roles in operations, customer service, sales, human resources and, of course, the change management office see more than their fair share of change initiatives.
Of these roles, middle managers and front-line employees experience the greatest levels of change saturation. Middle managers often implement changes and tend to feel the impacts first. And because changes cascade through organizations from the top down, front-line employees tend to bear the cumulative effects of constant change more than any other role.
How will you know when your people are fatigued? The ADKAR Model shows us that individuals react to change in predictable ways, including how they exhibit fatigue from change saturation.
Here’s what to look for:
When your people exhibit the signs above, organizations also suffer. For example, change-fatigued employees tend to produce less, take more time off, and even quit their jobs more frequently. Morale begins to erode across the organization, and employees lose their focus on business basics.
Actively working to avoid change saturation from projects in your organization is ideal. But when you can’t avoid it, catching fatigue early enables you to offer relief and avoid the long-term negative impacts on individuals, projects and organizations.
No matter which approach you choose, being proactive is the key:
Given the pressures on organizations today, change saturation at the project level may be inevitable, at least until your organization can develop a more mature capability to manage the increasing pace and volume of change. Until then, the most effective step you can take to mitigate change fatigue is to proactively manage your organization’s change portfolio. That will provide the perspective you need to identify, document and streamline the many changes affecting your organization and people—and combat change fatigue before it sets in.
Need help managing your change portfolio? The Prosci Change Portfolio Toolkit offers a suite of resources that enable you to map out change projects, identify change-saturated groups, and more.
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