|Matrix of Change
|Table of contents
|Building the matrix
|Interpreting the matrix
Feasibility: Do the set of practices representing the goal state constitute a coherent and stable system? Is our current set of practices coherent and stable? Is the transition likely to be difficult?.The sign, strength, and density of interactions are important for determining process coherence and stability. A system of practices with numerous reinforcing interactions is coherent and therefore inherently stable, whereas one with numerous conflicting interactions tends to be inherently unstable. The density of the interactions provides insight into the level of effort and coordination necessary to keep the parts of the system working. A target state with few interactions, whether reinforcing or conflicting, is loosely coupled and requires less coordination, while a target state with many interactions is tightly bound together, requiring more coordination. A transitional state dominated by conflicting interactions indicates a high degree of instability; therefore, an evaluation of the risk involved in the transition will be necessary and an alternative target system may emerge.
Sequence of Execution: Where should change begin? How does the sequence of change affect success? Are there reasonable stopping points? Practices that oppose other existing practices are the easiest to eliminate. However, this approach can be dangerous in that it may render the remaining system even more entrenched and difficult to change. Since stable systems generally have few opposing practices, an alternative is to start removing practices that have no inherent effect on other practices. On the target system, the easiest new practices to implement are those that complement existing ways of doing business. This can be used to build a bridge from one system to the next, especially when a practice has numerous complements in the proposed system. This approach should be avoided, however, if new practices strengthen old habits in ways that make dismantling the old regime even harder. Practices that support a large number of other practices must be handled with great care. Such "linchpin" practices can be either inserted to help lock several new practices in place or removed to unlock several old practices. The larger the blocks of existing reinforcing practices, the more difficult they are to change. The hardest changes involve the installation of new practices that oppose the greatest number of existing practices. In fact, large new blocks may be impossible to install before the opposing practices are removed. One strategy is to dismantle these competing practices beforehand. Another alternative is to lay a foundation of complementary new practices before implementing the proposed change. Having support in place helps keep employees from reverting to old habits. The presence of large blocks also suggests that change should stop only after a block has been completely removed. Reducing the pressure to change when an interlocking block is only partially dislodged can allow old practices to roll back into place, thus undoing work and wasting resources. The transition matrix can be very useful in helping identify which blocks of practices should be eliminated and which order should be followed.
Location: Are we better off instituting the new system in a greenfield site or can we reorganize the existing location at a reasonable cost? The density of interfering relationships in the transition matrix indicates how disruptive proposed changes will be and increasing interference indicates a greater need for isolation. More disruptive changes make existing or brownfield sites less attractive. In fact, greenfield sites are much more popular for introducing new systems, even (or perhaps especially) when they require abandoning years of organizational learning. Greenfield issues relate not only to location but also to attitudes. Radical change is "frame-breaking" in the sense that it requires changes in mental models, which involves values, beliefs, system boundaries, and causal structures. A transition matrix with more densely conflicting relationships can therefore indicate a greater need for changing mental models.
Pace and Nature of Change: Should the change be slow or fast? Incremental or radical? Which groups of practices, if any, must be changed at the same time? For purposes of implementation planning, it is worth distinguishing between the pace (gradual or rapid) and the nature (incremental or radical) of the change initiative. Occasionally, radical change may best be spread over several episodic steps, especially if resources are locked in place and initial conditions resist change. A single step discontinuity may prove too disruptive, too expensive, or too confusing. However, there are other occasions when change should follow an "all-or-nothing" approach. A halfway solution may lead to wasted resources, organizational exposure, or even failure. A fairly conflicting transition matrix also suggests how radical a change must be, whereas, a transition matrix showing few conflicting interactions indicates incremental change. The transition matrix analysis helps determine which situation applies to a specific case. There are three factors that help determine an appropriate pace for change: (1) task interdependence, (2) organizational receptiveness to change, and (3) external pressure. The first, task interdependence, refers to the divisibility of organizational processes. Segmenting tasks into blocks reduces the scope of change and the coordination problem that must be managed at any given time. The second factor, receptiveness to change, is determined by an organization's culture. A supportive culture allows adaptation to unfamiliar practices and promotes experimentation and learning. The third factor is external pressure. Low pressure provides slack time for adaptation, but a hostile environment may preclude episodic change. With extreme external pressure, concern for survival and the absence of slack resources may force rapid change. If the organization has a history of opposition to change or a pattern of non-sustained or regressive change, then transition times should be minimized.
Stakeholder Evaluations: Have we considered the insights from all stakeholders? Have we overlooked any important practices or interactions? What are the greatest sources of value? Evaluations make preferences and expectations explicit. They help anticipate responses to change by providing data on sources of support for, indifference to, or hostility toward proposed changes. If employees give low marks to an existing practice, they are likely to support a change. Conversely, if they do not support a change they will likely give existing practice high marks. They may require new incentives to support new proposals. Whereas the transition matrix indicates the degree of process interference and the need to break mental models, the evaluations measure the alignment of incentives. Negative values in the target ratings section indicate a need to either cooperate and better align incentives, to increase pace and avoid drawing out resistance, or to isolate factions whose interests oppose the change initiative. High variance among stakeholder evaluations indicates different priorities and a fragmented strategic vision. If evaluations were uniform across employee populations, then stakeholders within the company would jointly focus on tackling the most important issues first. With different priorities, however, stakeholders will tend to work at cross-purposes during implementation. When these differences occur, organizations may wish to establish a more uniform strategic vision early in the change process.
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