Change saturation is increasingly common and here is what you can do about it.

10 December 2019

Here are PROSCI’s 6 recommendations* to get the most of your transformational efforts, present and future!

author picture Article written by Vincent PIEDBOEUF

With more and bigger changes happening at an accelerated pace, overlapping is pretty inevitable. So much so that 73% of respondents to the recent PROSCI’s Best Practices Report have declared that they were close to, or surpassed the point of saturation. Past this point, people are unable to absorb more changes, causing adoption and usage rates to plummet. As fatigue sets in, the effects on the workplace can be devastating.

Change saturation can - and should - be addressed if only to mitigate its impact. Here are PROSCI’s 6 recommendations* to get the most of your transformational efforts, present and future!

*This article is based on PROSCI’s 6 strategies for reducing change saturation[1]. Make sure to check in-text references to learn more about related issues.

It all starts with an extensive inventory.

With many projects underway and forthcoming, you need to establish priorities. Making an inventory of all change initiatives currently being deployed or planned is crucial. It will help distinguish between discretionary and non-discretionary initiatives… a necessary stepping stone to manage your portfolio in a more efficient and deliberate way.

Decide on the amount and extent of change.

You cannot realistically implement everything in real time, let alone manage the chaos that derives from responding to pressure and not being selective. The main question to ask is in which way(s) project A, or B, or C, is helping your business strategy. Non-aligned projects should be discarded or put on the back burner. Decide on the amount of change to be implemented and managed at a given time and stick to your plan. Most importantly, make sure senior leaders are fully on board.

High-priority change initiative? Structure your approach!

If an initiative is given high-priority status, it must be approached in a structured manner. That includes conducting a people risk assessment and determining the amount of CM resources needed. An adequate allocation of resources creates conditions conducive to establishing an early dialog between Change Management and Project Management. It also helps people incorporate CM activities and deliverables into their busy schedule.

Are you a sponsor? Be active, visible and communicate often!

Ever since PROSCI started to study the key factors of change success, sponsorship has ranked first. Getting sponsors actively involved (A), building (B) a coalition and making sure they communicate (C) efficiently on the business and strategic reasons of change … is by far the best way to catalyse and sustain change efforts. This is commonly referred to as the ABC of sponsorship (PROSCI). Beware, though, that sponsors often have a very poor understanding of their role. Securing solid sponsorship is one of the most challenging CM task there is.

For long-term benefits, reinforce and track results over time.

Make no mistake: reaching the “finish line” does not mean forgetting about the project altogether. The ADKAR model insists on reinforcement activities to ensure deep-seated change (Awareness – Desire – Knowledge – Ability – Reinforcement). While you obviously need to set a realistic deadline for completing the project, it is vital to include a sustainment phase. This timeline should ideally derive from a joint effort between CM and PM teams to align activities and milestones. Keep monitoring results to ensure that no one reverts to old working routines and, last but not least, reward team performance results.

Know the “symptoms” of change saturation and ask the right questions.

Absenteeism, disengagement, performance loss that translates into a drop in overall satisfaction rates among clients… those are clear indicators of change saturation related fatigue. To have a better hold on the situation at all times, meet with managers, frontline employees and sponsors on a regular and individual basis. Because they are positioned closer to the field, managers are the ones in charge of cascading the change. They should demonstrate a sound awareness of the ADKAR model. Ask targeted questions to gauge their level of readiness and apply the model to survey employees and measure adoption / utilisation rates. Make sure that sponsors and project managers – on the other end of the spectrum – are collaborating to mitigate cross-impacts and make the best use of (limited) resources.


[1] See PROSCI & Horlick, A. "6 strategies for reducing change saturation". 


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