5 Tips to address the malaise of Change Saturation

    Jul 29, 2021 | Posted by Michael Campbell

    According to Prosci 's Best Practices research, 78% of organisations believe they are at, or past, the point of change saturation. Change saturation occurs when an organisation is attempting to make too many changes at once relative to its capacity and capability to adopt them successfully. Given the number of demands placed on organisations from their customers, competitors, the market and technological advances it is understandable that organisations are trying to adapt quickly but trying to take on too many change initiatives at once can negatively impact an organisation's performance, customer experience and staff morale.  We examine 5 tactics to combat the malaise of change saturation.

    The amount of change that an organisation can successfully adopt is not fixed, it varies according to the size, complexity and acceptability of the change initiatives being undertaken at any particular time. Organisations will quickly and often invisibly reach change saturation when no one has a high-level view of the entire portfolio of change. In some organisations, it is common to manage the project portfolio according to the capacity to deploy new technical capabilities but managing this portfolio often doesn't extend to an examination of how to ensure the organisation's people can successfully adopt and use these new capabilities at the rate and proficiency levels required to maximise Return On Investment (ROI). When the collective impact of change isn’t closely monitored and managed, consequences arise. The consequences can be seen across three levels, people, project and organisational.

    At the people level, employees become disengaged, tired, frustrated, resistant, cynical and sceptical of the current changes underway and future change initiatives will be poorly adopted with increasingly fewer productivity improvements than expected. Worse still, good employees choose to leave the organisation because they experience this failure of executive leadership.

    At the project level in a change saturated organisation, each change initiative does not realise its true potential benefits, as there are not enough resources to devote to each project, changes aren’t sustained and projects fail to gain any momentum as priorities are ignored. Projects either finish on time and on budget with sub-optimal ROI or are re-scoped, restructured or restarted, incurring duplicate costs.

    Both of the above will no doubt impact on the organisation's staff. An organisation at or past the point of change saturation experiences a high staff turnover, sustained and deeper declines in productivity, together with a measurable increase in absenteeism and decline in morale measured by lower staff engagement survey scores.

    It is vital that an organisation has a consistent process to assess the amount of change it is trying to tackle at any one time relative to its capacity and capability to successfully adopt these changes. We have helped organisations address this problem and have identified five key tips to help you effectively address this within your own organisation.

    1. Clearly define saturation and its elements

    Recognise the signs of change saturation and truly understand what change saturation means. Change management saturation occurs when the amount of change (change disruption) is greater than the amount of change an organisation can handle (change capacity). So let's get out there and document all of the change initiatives underway by assessing change characteristics, organisational attributes, strategic alignment, budget value and ROI value for each project. This will raise the collective organisational consciousness of just what it is trying to achieve, provoking a debate about the likelihood of success, but importantly a debate centred around data, not opinion.

    2. Understand why saturation occurs

    When no one is monitoring the collective impact of all the current change initiatives, change saturation can occur. As mentioned above it occurs at three stages of the organisation and you will begin to notice it first at the people level of the organisation. Look for the warning signs,  high potential staff leaving, increase in absenteeism in key functions undergoing multiple changes etc

    3. Share the consequences of being saturated

    The consequences of an organisation being change saturated can be devastating to company morale. Affecting not only the individuals involved in the projects, but the organization as a whole will suffer when there is too much change. We need to measure the productivity dip caused when new changes are introduced. Bringing data to this area and highlighting the cumulative effects on productivity to senior management of too much change can help to shift priorities.

    4. Manage the portfolio of change

    It is vital that we properly manage the portfolio of change. Putting a structured process in place to consistently measure the people impacts of each change can really help individuals to understand the levels of change saturation within an organisation. Make the change portfolio a key part of your organisation's operations and put processes in place to ensure that the portfolio is constantly monitored, managed and controlled. Examine how to handle changes that enter and exit the portfolio, learn how to conduct a detailed analysis of the impact that new proposed changes will have on the portfolio and saturation across the organisation and learn how to tier changes into Resource for success, Postpone for later action or Kill (because we just don't have the capacity or capability to deliver this change in the next 2 years).

    5. Manage change more effectively

    A well-trained change management practitioner will be more knowledgeable in how to manage change efficiently. When the people side of change is managed well, it will take up less change capacity than when it is managed poorly. Adopting a structured process to how you manage the people side of all change projects allows you to increase your organisation's capacity for change.

    If you are concerned that your organisation is facing a period of change saturation then it may be time to consider additional help from the right partner. To learn how to apply a structured change management process to an individual project please consider participation in the 3-day CMC Prosci-Certified Change Management Practitioner Programme.

    You'll learn Prosci® methodology and apply tools from an online toolkit for managing change effectively within your project. Participants in this three day programme can qualify as certified practitioners of Prosci’s research-based change management methodology and take the first step toward becoming a Certified Change Management Professional.

    Take a look at our FREE Prosci change management webinarsOur webinars offer an insight into the forefront of change management thinking, delivered by CMC Change Management Practitioners. Whether you're new to change management, or are seasoned in the people side of change, there is a topic for you.  Attend a live session, or see what we've got available on-demand. 


    Topics: Change Saturation