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An Emergent Change Process

In practice, a change process rarely follows a simple sequence of planned stages:

  • some phases may take several iterations to complete
  • single step phases may get delayed, whilst others need to continue, and run out of the initial sequence
  • single step phases such as governance approval, may become complicated by only partly completing, by gaining an approval in principle, or subject to alternative funding sources being identified
  • requirements will often change or evolve during the change process
  • time constraints may require many activities to be run in parallel

A change initiative is most likely to success where this near chaotic reality is recognised, and where the planning and process adapts to this reality rather than trying to adapt reality to a convenient rational-linear process.

Whichever is the preferred change process in terms of the main elements identified, and whether it is based on a Deming style rolling ball, a Kanter style wheel, or one of the spiral models, it is most important to recognise that change:

  • has a number of fundamental activities which need to be undertaken
  • activities may be one-shot, iterative, or phased with intervening delays
  • is cyclic and needs to continually evolve

A model therefore needs to recognise these different elements, and the different speeds at which they may cycle, and therefore a model utilising a number of concentric rings provides the simplest and most suitable model.  The example shown below is for a PDCA cycle, but may be equally applied to any other process.

Once this nature of change is recognised, the planning process needs to adapt to identify suitable milestones within each 'ring' of the process, to identify staged deliverables (and critical paths for achieving them), to incorporate suitable contingency based on prior experience etc.  to ensure that suitable planning and control is maintained, despite the apparently complex environment.



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