Don’t miss a thing in your change project

wave for oct blog 2013

Ask 12 people what’s going on during change and you’ll get a dozen different answers. Researchers know that change within a dynamic human system – our workplaces – is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous; ” VUCA”!

Faced with charged words like “volatile” many project managers hunker down and pay close attention to the concreteness of their deliverables. Anything that can’t be scoped out and assigned, is best ignored. They assume that, with good control mechanisms and good people in place, the project team can face whatever the real world throws at them. These are the managers for whom staying in scope, on schedule and on budget are the prime goals. And while these are indeed the ultimate measures, in paying attention to only the objective aspects of the project, they may actually be missing a whole chunk of subjective activity that will in fact impact their final deliverables and the sustainability of the change.

Every change has multiple aspects. As well as the organizational (systemic) aspect, there is the personal aspect and the relational or cultural aspect. No matter if what is changing is something mechanical and inanimate (let’s say a computer system or an office building or the departmental structures) – the change itself is not made and sustained until a healthy transition takes place in the people it affects. Think about it – can you say your business is customer-focused if you have great front-facing technology but your employees hate the customer?  Can you say you have changed to a better way of organizing information if everyone is secretly filing information the way they always have done? Can you say you have become a team-based organization when you’ve reorganized departments into teams but people still work independently and resent helping each other out?

You know what:  All those 12 people were right – or at least partly right. A Full Span approach to change management is a complete approach that includes and connects these multiple aspects of system, individual and group. Based on Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory,  Full Span means recognizing that four critical aspects of reality are always at play. An integral – or what we call Full Span  – approach includes the awareness, actions, collective and context in any organizational consideration. When approaching change from an integrally informed perspective, project managers include both subjective and objective sides of the change. For a project manager, it means paying attention to ALL of:


The internal subjective aspect of the change
What is the motivation & meaning of the change?
Who embodies the change today and tomorrow?
What is the compelling future this change creates?

Behaviours and measures that demonstrate the change
What are the concrete deliverables?
What productive actions must take place?
How will the change be measured?
The shared meaning created or disturbed
How does the change connect or split  relationships & communities?
What and who will facilitate communication & coordinated efforts?
How will current cultural norms affect the change?
The larger system that holds or destroys
What are the sector/industry challenges?
Are the broadest implications accounted for?
What other systems or processes will be impacted?

Great project managers may start from the objective side of actions, measures and processes and  they widen their scope to consider the subjective aspects of Awareness and Collective. You can apply a Full Span approach before, during and after the change.

For example, before the change, a readiness assessment can consider:

Awareness:  Who will lose their meaning with this change?

Action:          Where is the energy for change the highest?

Collective:    Where will new connections support the change?

Context:        Which clients are driving this change forward?


And to enhance sustainability, engagement strategies can be balanced across all four spans, like this:

Awareness:  Make a direct connection from the Vision to the change

Action:          Rewrite annual performance goals to support the change

Collective:   Hold town hall meetings and focus groups to discuss the change

Context:       Train on a new technology that enables the change

Taking a Full Span approach is an elegantly simple way to ensure your project is successful by managing all of the complex and dynamic human systems at work.

For more information or support in managing your change, or the Full Span approach, contract Meg Salter and Jill Malleck Integral Master Coaches™ and Organizational Development consultants.   ,  .

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