• Nick Smith

I is for Intent, Impact & Interventions

At Epion, we talk about clarifying the intent of proposed change; understanding the real impact of that change; and designing, developing and deploying the interventions that are needed to effect the change successfully. Why do we talk in these terms? Fundamentally, there are two reasons:

  • To keep things simple, and focused on what really matters: intent, impact and interventions - three things that need to be front and central. It seems to us, they provide sharper focus than talking about developing a change strategy, preparing for change, and delivering change.

  • Second, because too often, change activity comes in too late. Communication and training are put in place to accompany previously developed implementation plans for new processes, systems or structures and roles - reacting to these new processes, systems or structures and roles. Sometimes, change practitioners have the opportunity to work backwards and reverse engineer into their work an understanding of what will be different, and why the change is being effected - but not always. We want to avoid reverse engineering, putting in place strong foundations.

So what do we mean by Intent, Impact and Interventions? We're convinced that enabling effective change, and really engaging those impacted by that change, requires an articulation of the intent of any proposed change that is rich and deep. 'Successful adoption of a new ERP system' cannot be an adequate statement of change intent: that's surely no more than a means to achieving the change that is really sought. Rather, it seems to us, clarifying the intent of a proposed change must include a comprehensive vision of the end state. It should be able to articulate outcomes (what the end state will accomplish) and what the future state will be like for its stakeholders (the organisation's people, their customers and markets, and their partners and suppliers). And where the change is significant (certainly if it's transformational), there needs to be clarity about the operating model that will enable and embody the end state - and detail on processes, systems, competencies, structures and roles that implement that operating model.

And, if we don't have that level of clarity about change intent, how can we hope to understand the real impact of the change? Understanding the impact of change of course includes assessing the gap between as-is and to-be processes, and changes in systems functionality and interfaces, but even that gap analysis has to be more. Changes between current competencies and capabilities, and those required for the target operating model; desired shifts in cultural and behavioural norms; and transitions in operating roles and reach all need to be part of the gap analysis. And impact analysis is about more than understanding gaps. Changes in our personal lives (house moves, bereavement, new children) impact not just on what we do (a gap analysis) but on our sense of self, our confidence, our ability to engage with everyday life around us. So it is with understanding the impact of organisational change: if we don't explore the people impacted, how the change will feel to them - loss as well as gain, psychological safety as well as ambition - then we won't be able to identify the change interventions really required. What might this involve? It could include considering demographics, change histories, organisational stability. Maybe we might develop personas that are more than role based. See G is for Generations in this series, for one example of what this could be.

So if we have an impact assessment that flows from clarity re change intent, and is more than a process gap analysis and a list of systems functionality in which people need to be trained, we're well placed to design, develop and deploy change interventions that will be geared to the real change needs of those impacted. And intervention is a strong word - we're not just offering some help, we're putting in place activity that will empower people to embrace the change - engaging, envisioning and equipping. Equipping may mean much more, too, than training and communications. It might, for example, mean bringing in specialist futurology support to help teams envisage a radically different future; coaching leaders in how to sustain psychological safety for their people; or putting in place 'scaffolding' that provides 'habit-building' support for new ways of working for significant periods after their introduction (see H is for Habits). And, our point is you're unlikely to get the right interventions if, late in the day, you have to work back from the change to its impact, and then from that to its intent.

Let's do the right things, let's do things right.

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