Rate and scope of change

Next week the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development are publishing a change management toolkit I have written. More information on this will follow but meanwhile here is an extract from the introduction.

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All organisations are in flux: changing their focuses, expanding or contracting their activities, and rethinking their products and services. Most organisations more than 10 years old look nothing like they did even five years ago. And it is likely that in the next year or two organisations will not look as they do today.

Emergent change is nothing new but feels more pressing and more urgent to deal with. Nowadays, organisations and their stakeholders are demanding increased accountability, there are concerns about sustainability and the environment, and a heightened emphasis on cost-effectiveness and quality improvement. These, and many other environmental factors, are putting pressure on organisations to be alert, flexible, and continuously responding to change.

Some types of change can be frightening. And, some can be extremely difficult. But no organisation can afford not to continuously change. Therefore, having proactive approaches for identifying new and better ways of doing things with the goal of improving organisational performance quality and efficiency are key.

As Benjamin Franklin observed, "When you're finished changing, you're finished". What follows gives you some techniques that keep your organisation effectively changing.

What is organisational change?
Typically, the phrase "organisational change" is about a significant change in the organisation, like restructure or adding a major new product or service. This is in contrast to more continuous changes, such as adopting a new computer procedure.

But organisational change can seem a vague phenomenon, so to clarify, think of it in terms of two things – rate of change and scope of change.

The rate of change is about the time scale of the changes i.e. continuous, intermittent, over a defined period. The scope of change is about its reach for example organisation-wide, or business unit, or team change and its type e.g. radical and transformational involving new knowledge, technologies, and processes. These two aspects of change are discussed below.

Rate of change
The rate of change can be continuous – for example, increasing motivation or engagement in the workforce, helping the organisation to become more proactive and less reactive, or addressing the ongoing need to be efficient and effective. Many of these ongoing changes do not have specific goals – they just 'are', so measuring progress can be challenging

Or the rate of change can be intermittent – a project that addresses a current, major problem or opportunity such as solving a quality issue, or introducing a new product line. It is often easier to determine the success of intermittent change than continuous change because during the lifecycle of the project which usually has a defined start/end date the problem or opportunity is either successfully addressed or not.

Scope of change
The scope of change can be organisation-wide, or business unit, or team change that is radical and transformational involving new knowledge, technologies, and processes. Things like this include, at an organisation level, a major restructuring and reshaping that dismantle an organisation's structure and culture, for example from the traditional top-down, hierarchical structure to a collaborative structure with self-directing teams. Equally the scope can be about increments or adaptations to existing knowledge, processes, and technologies, again at organisation-wide, or business unit, or team change.

Relationship between rate and scope of change
Looking rate and scope you'll see they are inter-related. You can have continuous change that is always incrementally adapting the current ways of operating. Equally you can have continuous change that is radical. In this case you are making ongoing significant changes to various parts of the organisation or its parts.

You can have intermittent change that makes adaptations for example, overhauling an existing process as a 'change project' over a given period of time. Or you can have intermittent change that is radical – that is you make transformational changes over a given period of time that fundamentally change the nature of the business or the ways of operating.

I will put on the link to the toolkit when it becomes available next week.

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