Degree of Change > Resiliency to Change = Change Saturation

I was recently listening in on a post-mortem review of a change initiative that occurred at a medium sized, remote site.  It was a simple change to the IT infrastructure that should have been a low risk, low impact change that swapped out several pieces of hardware throughout the site.

When the technicians arrived on-site they were immediately greeted with both active and passive forms of resistance.  As they walked through the site’s open work areas and cubicle spaces, asking questions and jotting notes on their clipboards full of forms, the technicians felt a strong reaction to their presence-- employees seemed fearful, evasive or combative to their efforts.  The technical team couldn’t understand why the change was so difficult for these people to handle. 

Towards the end of the post-mortem, a casual comment came to surface that the site had just undergone a complete reorganization and workforce reduction.  From a project perspective, this was a small detail that impacted the timing of the deliverables.  From a change management perspective, this was a show stopper.  People were fearful for their jobs, and any size of change was more than they could handle at that given moment. We had reached the change saturation point.

Change saturation occurs when the degree of change in an organization is greater than the organization’s resiliency and capability to absorb the new change:

Degree of Change > Resiliency to Change
= Change Saturation

The degree of change includes multiple factors:

  • The number and magnitude of changes that have occurred in the recent past
  • The number and magnitude of changes currently in-flight
  • The magnitude of the change you want to make
  • Perceived need for the change

An organization’s resiliency to change is dependent on:

  • Corporate culture/attitude to change
  • Past history of change successes vs. failures
  • Leader and sponsor proclivity to help foster change
  • Corporate structures that are supportive of employees as change occurs

Changes within an organization should be viewed as a portfolio of options that need to be identified, prioritized and managed to ensure that the right changes happen at the right time so the change saturation point can be avoided as much as possible.  If the porfolio of changes had been analyzed in the example above, it would have been clear that the organization had reached the saturation point before the infrastructure change had occured.

1 comment

Gail Severini, Tue, 07/31/2012 - 07:59
Great post, Selwyn. You are doing great work here and I have tweeted it as well. Daryl Conner and Linda Hoopes have been researching resilience and its impact on generating change nimbleness for years. You might find this post interesting "The Characteristics of Nimble Execution" http://connerpartners.com/frameworks-and-processes/the-characteristics-of-nimble-execution (resilience is in culture) and Linda has built an offer around personal resilience here http://www.resiliencealliance.com/ Cheers. Gail