The big picture game

making change stick with successful strategic integration

Rona Puntawe Ptschelinzew

PMI Melbourne Chapter

One of the most fundamental—and often frustrating—challenges to any strategic initiative is how to make it stick. Thinking “Big Picture” helps. A lot. Success in strategy is a success in change. Success in change is success in integration. Success in integration is based on recognizing the whole system that the change impacts.

Seasoned program and project leaders know that if we are to make change stick, we need to integrate that change into the big picture—that whole system—that everyone is a part of:

  1. What is the big picture? – A whole system perspective for the initiative.
  2. How do we fit within the big picture? – Placing the initiative into the whole system.
  3. How do we engage and influence to fit all the pieces together? – Navigating politics of change

This paper talks about the basis with which the big picture game was designed. It first introduces the Theory of Change, the underpinning methodology that creates coherent maps for strategic change with which the big picture was developed. The paper takes the reader through the three different Pathways to Integration, shows how to navigate the politics of change to facilitate integration, and lastly introduces a tool for successful stakeholder engagement and integration: political heatmap, which is critical for engaging stakeholders to make change stick through integration.

The paper concludes with the concept of strategic alignment and how the workshop is designed to understand strategic integration through a simulation-based or game-based learning. The reader and participant gain an appreciation of the role of project managers as architect, politician and strategist with a “big picture” in mind to effectively make change stick.

Theory of Change

Only 42% of organizations report high alignment of projects to organizational strategy, according to PMI's Pulse of the Profession®: The High Cost of Low Performance (2014). Research conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit sponsored by PMI found that, over the last three years, the average success rate of strategic initiatives is only 56%. The majority of senior executives (61%) continue to struggle in executing strategy.1

Theory of Change is a methodology that facilitates alignment by ensuring initiatives delivers intended outcomes. This maps out the key issue, proposed initiatives, outputs, immediate/intermediate/long-term outcomes, the engagement and interactions required to produce outcomes and the assumptions at every step of the way (

Essentially, the Big Picture Game is a Theory of Change template for business organizations, providing a map on how strategies are translated into strategic outcomes with measurable outputs. In short, the template provides an integrated structure where strategy is delivered with the change intended through a coherent map of stakeholder engagement, inputs, outputs and outcomes.

Project Managers as Architects: Pathways to Integration

There are three pathways to integration namely strategic, operational and stakeholder integration. All three require models to structure integration.

Strategic Integration – is about having a strategic model of the various initiatives that an organization undertakes. PMI's Pulse of the Profession® In-Depth Report: The Impact of PMO's on Strategy Implementation (2013) indicates that “PMOs frequently involved in project alignment to strategic objectives are nearly twice as likely to be a high-performing PMO as those rarely involved” (p.6).

A strategy provides the direction for organization, its vision, mission, purpose for being and the unique value it offers to its stakeholders. This involves a series of plans and priorities expressed as strategic plans, business plans or portfolio plans. Ultimately these require strategic execution into three categories of projects:

  1. Transformational – projects that involve introducing new processes, structures or systems and the way people do things which may include a new enterprise-wide framework or system, a new target operating model or organizational restructure.
  2. Continuous Improvement – projects that improve on existing processes or systems, examples of which are LEAN, quality management projects, streamlining operations
  3. Investment and Infrastructure – involves capital expenditure (CapEx) such as introducing new product lines or channels, acquiring new businesses and infrastructure or even outsourcing and selling existing businesses or operations.

Operational Integration – involves ensuring that the processes in place “hold together.” Bringing strategies to life through operational integration involves managing change, operational architecture and results (or benefits). There are various models for lending integration to operation. Primarily, this includes business architecture, business model and enterprise value chain. A customer walk-through also facilitates operational integration from the point of customers. Maturity models provide pathways for continuous improvement and maturity of operations. These include, but are not limited to, ISO Quality Management Systems, Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), Business Excellence frameworks such as Malcolm Baldridge, Australian Business Excellence Framework, European Business Excellence Framework – all of which help create operational integration. Project managers will do well to work with business architects and management systems specialists in order to integrate specific initiatives into the broader operating and business models. The Big Picture game makes this salient. It applies the concept of management systems (ISO, 2008;

Stakeholder Integration – The Big Picture works with effective stakeholder engagement. Stakeholder integration is the heart of change management. Managing change includes both individual behavior and organizational change management. The outcome of change management is to minimize disruption, optimize change benefits while engaging stakeholders. It bridges strategy and operations. Individual change management includes generating awareness; creating desire; developing knowledge, ability and reinforcement to adopt and sustain initiatives. This is the ADKAR model of change management (ProSci, 2007)2.

In parallel, organizational change needs to be managed alongside individual change. This means navigating the politics of change. Therefore, the workshop introduces political heatmap, a powerful tool to strategically engage stakeholders, influence and mobilize integration across an enterprise.

Project Managers as Politicians: Navigating Politics of Change to Facilitate Integration

It is important to first appreciate the concept of politics and why it is key to stakeholder integration. Politics is the use of power to achieve an outcome that benefits an individual or organization. Politics is a neutral concept; it is neither positive nor negative in itself. The political landscape constitutes hierarchies and relationships of political players. Power, in the context of organizations, is the control of resources, tangible and intangible; for example, control of people, time, money, energy, attention, information, rewards, etc.

The author recommends three steps to navigating the politics of change:

Step 1 - Assess the political landscape. There are a few tools and techniques to assess the political landscape. First, the use of Voice of Customer, which is a LEAN tool that determines what people really want – in relation to a specific initiative or change. Second, organizational artifacts also help assess the landscape. This may include previous or related project/program artifacts such as charters, post-implementation reviews, stakeholder plans, meeting minutes, risk assessments, etc. Third, a political heatmap identifies the key players in relation to a strategic initiative.

Step 2 - Monitor the political landscape. The political heatmap is a critical monitoring tool to identify shifts in the political landscape. But the question is: How then do we calibrate the heatmap? There are behavior-based indicators, which include decision-making, commitment demonstrated, tonality and language in regards to the change, risk appetite and responsiveness, and attention. Attention is key: what, when, where people put their attention to. Often these behaviors are demonstrated through one-on-one interactions, responses to communication, and most importantly, stakeholder meetings and discussions.

Step 3 - Shift the landscape with sponsorship. It is at this stage that integration is facilitated. Shifting the political landscape requires capabilities and knowledge of behavior economics, organizational behavior, group dynamics and individual influencing. Some of these concepts, tools and techniques include, but are not limited to modelling, framing, anchoring, priming, cognitive ease, endowment effect, escalation of commitment (Kahneman, 2011).

Groupthink is one of the political risks that adversely impact change initiatives. Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon where desire for conformity by people in a group overrides rational or functional decision-making (Kahneman, 2011). Some techniques to diffuse groupthink include socialization prior to meeting the group, framing the group dynamic (outcomes, options and future pathways), post-its and parking lots, break-outs, world café facilitation among others.

Sponsorship is the most critical success factor in enabling shifts in the landscape. Essentially, this means identifying who the key sponsors are and influencing these sponsors (ProSci, 2007).

Political Heatmap

The author adapted the Political heatmap from the ProSci Stakeholder Assessment Diagram, which is the number one predictor for successful change according to ProSci Change Management Best Practice Research 2007, which involved 575 organizations. In its 2014 report, wherein 822 organizations participated, the number one contributor for success in change is active and visible executive sponsorship. Political heatmap and engaging sponsorship are intrinsically linked. The former enables the latter.

A political heatmap is a diagram similar to, but distinct from, an organizational structure. Each player is color-coded, thus a heatmap, like a traffic-light: red for resistant stakeholders, green for supportive stakeholders, and amber for those who are either not aware or neutral. The political heatmap identifies the key sponsors– or the ones who have influence over the stakeholder groups critical to the project or change. It also elucidates the hierarchy of sponsor influence.

From the author's experience, often the heatmap starts with a contained or limited number of stakeholders. Eventually, with more knowledge of the organization and relationships, the map expands and becomes more detailed.

The heatmap is also useful in proactively managing change and emerging issues with risks such as changing goalposts, change in stakeholders, especially sponsors and leadership. It also helps to take advantage of positive shifts, favorable change in sponsors, and streamlined relationships and gateways for decision-making in the project.

Project Managers as Strategists: Strategic Alignment with the Big Picture

Many projects or initiatives are managed in isolation. Most efforts fail because they don't get embedded into the bigger system. The outcome of strategic integration is strategic alignment. Delivering on projects to execute strategies require the following disciplines:

  1. Project management to deliver initiatives within defined scope, on time and within budget.
  2. Program management to manage interdependencies and integration across initiatives.
  3. Portfolio management to establish priorities across the enterprise that deliver optimal returns or benefits.

This means having a Big Picture in mind, combining integration of strategy, operations and stakeholders to achieve alignment – a whole system perspective. Participants will appreciate through the Big Picture Game that when one part changes, the whole system is impacted. You remove, you add, you re-group, you modify and change happens. You are able to sustain change when you figure out how to do these according to a design of a fully functional system.

What Does a Big Picture - Whole System - Look Like?

Participants will have FUN figuring this out through simulation! The game simulates how a whole system works in an organization! The game essentially mimics what happens in real life when one is assigned a piece and needs to figure out how to integrate that piece into the bigger system. This simulation game had been successfully tested to effectively make people appreciate the connections amongst strategy, projects, change, operations and business results.


Appreciating the Big Picture is the first step to eliminating barriers to success in strategy execution and making change stick. This means understanding how things align and integrate, strategically, operationally and politically.

The Theory of Change is a meta-framework, which presents the executive a starting point template with which to design a coherent, connected, clear map with which to bring strategies to life. It connects intention to action, vision to outcome and strategy to performance. It could be adapted to any enterprise, as simulated with the Big Picture, to facilitate alignment that leads to integration. This approach recognises that each organization and strategy presents its own unique context. The Big Picture not only simulates, but also facilitates a fit-for-purpose approach to integrating projects by aligning to strategies based on a nuanced understanding of how things fit together.

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ISO. (2008). ISO quality management system 9001:2008 standard.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Project Management Institute. (2013). Pulse of the Profession® In-Depth Report: The Impact of PMOs on Strategy Implementation. Retrieved from

Project Management Institute. (2014). Pulse of the Profession®: The High Cost of Low Performance. Retrieved from

ProSci. (2007). Prosci change management best practice research 2007. ProSci.

Prosci. (2014). Prosci change management best practice report 2014. ProSci.

The Economist Intelligence Unit. (2013). Why good strategies fail: Lessons for the c-suite. Retrieved

1Results based on a global survey of 587 senior executives and a series of in-depth interviews with senior executives and academics.

2ADKAR refers to the different phases of individual change according to ProSci Benchmarking Research: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2015, Rona Puntawe Ptschelinzew
Originally published as a part of the 2015 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Orlando, Florida, USA



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