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Productive Change

On Purpose


We know that change is managed because we believe that management can introduce Cause-and-Effect into change. But if change "fails" 3/4 of the time, is it solving the right problem, or is it just the wrong solution?


We know that unmanaged change can cause termination, disruption, or trends.


We step into that with intention to address risk, stability, and improvement.


And that may be done as a translation, a transition or a transformation.


Furthermore, it can progress all at once, or cumulatively, or emergently.


As managers we expect to try to connect those impacts, modes, and intents, but given their 3x3x3 universe of possibilities it is unlikely that any manager has covered most of the available workspace. When we have to do something unfamiliar, we look for examples in what has been done by others.




Yet, despite all the variety, all of the possibilities usually are pursued for the same reason: the organization intends to continue, to persist, to survive.


Any manager of a change may have the intent to "do" a change only once. But organizations intend to do them as many times as necessary.


With Progress


How does the organization know that the effort is worth it? We constantly hear that as much as 75% of the time, managed changes fail.


To accept that as a fact, we have to know how failure and success is measured. But on the face of it, the idea that success is expected doesn't make sense -- whereas what makes sense instead is that there is reasonable progress towards a goal.


How does the organization know that a change resulted in progress towards the goal?


The most reasonable answer is that the organization can compare its prior capability to cause progress against its new capability to cause progress.


The difference between the older capability and the newer capability should be measurable by comparison not only internally (before and after) but externally (this organization compared to demonstrated ability by other organizations).


We understand that every organization is in some ways unique, but that has never prevented observation of different organizations trying to do things the same way and having different results. The vast amount of material promoting models of managing change is the direct expression of the idea that different organizations can be made similar to each other and compared to each other.


Within a given organization, however, what matters is the before versus after. The most straightforward description of that is found not in "performance evaluation" but instead in productivity.


In Scope


Productivity is the ratio of the amount of effort versus the amount of impact, in context.


And productivity is what most managed change can directly alter, in a causal way. As a result, Productivity is the strongest and most direct measure of the progress (a.k.a. "success") of a managed change.


Because effort and impact are each variables, aligning the target level of each to the other is the initial decision to make about management intention in change.


According to that decision, Capability (the potential for effective action) becomes the primary investment as a prerequisite for effort.


Managing changes for boosting capability will leverage or promote:

  • Communication that makes new information practical to all stakeholders

  • Practices that motivate mutual cooperation

  • Feedback that allows the autonomy and authority of actors to meaningfully influence conditions in real time

  • Design that combines functional refinements including technique, resource, and procedure

On the impact side, Scope (the range of requirements within high priority influences) is the primary concern as a target of capability.

  • In terms of Productivity, a small effort with a big impact is obviously an attractive option if it is relevant to requirements.

  • A big effort with a small impact is comparatively undesirable.

  • "Sizing" an effort is not just an issue of the volume of inputs, but also of operational difficulty as conditioned -- or constrained -- by supportability and complexity that accompanies the range of requirements.


In the End


Changing productivity is what creates the options available to affect responsiveness to demand and, consequently, the benefit of the response.


By changing capability to improve productivity, the change manager has done the most that plausibly causes a desired difference in the ultimate outcome of the organization's response.


As a complement to strategy (where performance management matters), change management should not be held responsible beyond its likelihood of raising productivity through creating prerequisite capability.


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