Organizational Capacity for Change

Increasing Change Capacity and Avoiding Change Overload


Increasing Change Capacity and Avoiding Change Overload

by Dr. H. James Harrington, CEO of Harrington Associates and Frank Voehl, Strategy Associates


Understanding The Change Saturation/Overload Condition

Saturation Point Impact

The Concept of Assimilation

Factors Contributing to Saturation

Baseline Stress Levels

Project- and Program-Related Stresses

What to Do to Prevent Overload

Building Change Capacity

Assess Competencies for Managing Change

Build Resiliency



Case Study: Innovative Change at British Telecommunications

Capacity-Building Strategies


Today's business environment is characterized by international competition, rapid technology expansion, high levels of risk, high employee turnover, and a turbulent external environment. Organizational behavior experts have prescribed various strategies to deal with change overload and to build organizational capacity for change.

So, how can an organization avoid change overload and increase change capacity? We will answer this question by: (1) defining change saturation and overload; (2) looking at factors that lead to overload; (3) suggesting a method for preventing overload; (4) preparing the organization for change; and (5) building change capacity.

In order to keep pace with rapidly changing technologies, international competition and the vast amount of information made available through the Internet and social media, organizations must be in a continuous state of change. This has resulted in many organizations undertaking an increasing number of projects/programs with shorter durations (Figure 1), each simultaneously delivering their outputs into the organization. Change is further complicated by multiple, concurrent projects—each of which has many dependencies, interactions, variables, and recipients involved. This makes it even more important that you organize for implementation—and get it right and do it well. The development of a roadmap can help and has two major uses: It helps organizations reach a consensus about a set of needs and the resources required to satisfy those needs; and it provides a mechanism to help forecast needed developments and action items.

The Increasing Impact of Change

Figure 1: The Increasing Impact of Change

Not only has the volume of projects and programs increased exponentially, they are getting more and more complex and must complete their life cycle in far less time. Considering the additional stress from a rapidly changing environment, it is easy to understand how quickly an organization can be driven beyond the capacity to absorb the change.

There are three interrelated contributors to change saturation that can have a negative impact upon projects/programs:

  • individual employee saturation,
  • project team saturation, and
  • organizational (or business unit) saturation

Before dealing with these contributors, we first need to define further the problem to be solved.

Understanding The Change Saturation/Overload Condition

Organizations today risk overcommitting resources, resulting in an overload condition with which it cannot cope. This condition drives the organization past the saturation point and has a negative impact upon its ability to meet normal commitments.

Some of the key definitions used throughout this paper include:

  • Stress – The most commonly accepted definition of personal stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize (Lazarus, 1966). This definition can also be applied to the organization as a whole or parts of an organization.
  • Saturation – The point within an individual or organization where additional stress cannot be handled without decreasing overall performance.
  • Overload – This state is reached when individuals and organizations are fully saturated, and dysfunctional behavior results in dramatically reduced productivity.

Saturation Point Impact

Stress overload on individuals has been recognized as a major problem for over a century. Because organizations are groups of individuals working together to accomplish specific objectives, it is easy to see that organizational stress is the collective sum of individual stress. Organizations must consider the negative impact that occurs when its activities exceed its people's ability to cope with the activities. No individual, business unit, or organization is immune from stress.

The capability to deal with these stresses is the assimilation capacity. When the assimilation capacity of an individual, business unit, or organization is stretched to the point of resource constraint leading to ineffectiveness, it has exceeded the saturation point. When the saturation point is exceeded, competence, comfort, confidence and control (the 4Cs) are disrupted.

When the 4Cs are disrupted, stress levels go up very quickly and productivity drops off. People start to discuss what is going to happen and to question whether they are doing the right things. The organization becomes unstable as people start to react more slowly to the present processes. This drives up the collective anxiety level of the organization, causing its members to collectively lose focus and effectiveness.

Projects and programs introduce stress on individuals and the organization as it moves from a current state to a future state. Along the way, the projects and programs release outputs into operations. The journey of this transition can be long and arduous, and, if not properly managed with appropriate strategy and systems, can be disastrous. This is why change management must be an integral part of the project/program management plan.

The Concept of Assimilation

Assimilation is the level of energy required to overcome stress. All organizations have a maximum amount of stress they can assimilate before they become so saturated that they go into overload. Each project deliverable can trigger an immediate spike in stress levels followed by a spike that is sustained for a period of time. The second spike then starts to decay as the project output is transitioned into operations, and personnel become familiar with the change. Figure 2 represents a typical stress pattern resulting from a project involving significant change.

Project Impact on Organization or Business Unit

Figure 2: Project Impact on Organization or Business Unit

Change assimilation involves not only the effort necessary to deal with what is causing the change (i.e., new technologies, reorganizations, new processes, etc.), but also the short- and long-term implications of change (i.e., shifting power bases, need to learn new skills, formation of new relationships, establishment of new expectations, etc.). The two spikes in Figure 2 show a typical stress response over the lifecycle of a project. The first spike occurs as the project is initiated. The second spike occurs as the project goes into the implementation and/or transition phase as part of business as usual. The height of the spike reflects the magnitude of the stress. By effectively managing organizational change within the project plan you can minimize the magnitude of these spikes.

Factors Contributing to Saturation

Two major conditions need to be considered when discussing saturation: baseline stress levels and project- and program-related stresses.

Baseline Stress Levels

There is a level of stress related to the current conditions within an organization. These conditions and the associated stress levels may vary based upon:

  • the type of organization,
  • the competitive environment of the organization,
  • the specific job assignments within the organization, and
  • the past performance of the organization.

It is easy to understand that there will be a high baseline stress level in an organization, for example, that has been losing market share or revenue over an extended period of time.

Project- and Program-Related Stresses

We will look at project- and program-related stresses in four subcategories: project team stress, business unit/organizational stresses, simultaneous active projects/programs, and organizational culture.

Project team stress

Saturation can occur within the project team when an individual or group of individuals is assigned a heavier workload than they feel they are capable of handling. The individuals comprising project teams are usually required to manage their efforts between a number of projects and operational activities. Although their workloads related to a specific project may not be sufficient to drive them into saturation, the cumulative workload for all their assignments may greatly overuse their capacity.

When project team members are selected, it is important to consider their present workload and ensure they are not asked to perform beyond their capabilities and time constraints. It is also important that the people assigned to the project have the required skill sets. Research conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU, 2013) found that “implementation of even high-priority strategic initiatives and projects typically receives sufficiently skilled personnel for the task at just 41% of respondents’ companies.” The report further notes that “Companies that devote sufficiently high levels of personnel and skills to project and programme implementation report that, on average, 62% of their strategic initiatives have been successful in the last three years, compared with 53% at other businesses.” Clearly, there is improved strategy realization when careful consideration is given to matching talent to the requirements of a particular project. Failing to do so increases the stress level of the project team members and limits the change capacity of the organization.

Once the team members are assigned to projects, the project manager should watch for telltale signs that an individual team member's workload is too large for the person to handle. Typical signs of overload may include, not completing project assignments on schedule, or coming to meetings unprepared. When this condition occurs, the project manager needs to investigate the situation to determine if it is attributable to poor performance, lack of technical skills, or the need to rebalance the person's workload. Whatever the reason, the situation needs to be addressed and mitigation plans put in place to correct the problem.

There are a number of other ways stress levels in project teams can be increased to the saturation point, including:

  • Significant changes in scope without increases in resources and/or schedule adjustments
    Sometimes this occurs when major changes in scope are identified. However, it occurs more often when many small, seemingly insignificant changes in project scope add up to a major impact on the project team's capability—therefore raising individuals’ stress levels.
  • The need to apply technology that is not understood by the project team members
    In today's environment, technology is advancing so fast that project teams are often called upon to implement programs that use very advanced technology. Project team members may need to learn new technology while continuing to produce project results.
  • Inadequate sponsor support
    Sponsors sometimes accept the assignment without thoroughly understanding the role requirements or being fully committed to its objectives. When this occurs, the project team's workload greatly increases as it struggles to complete the project without active sponsor support or engagement.
  • Other projects affect the same business unit
    This occurs when projects compete for limited resources within the business unit. Project team members may be stretched so thin that they are not available when required. Often this results in major changes to the work breakdown structure and increases stress on the project team.
  • Lack of organizational change management capabilities within the project team
    The project team may ignore the implications of the inherent change that will result from the project it is undertaking. As a result, the business unit receiving the project outputs may resist these changes. Many unnecessary roadblocks may be constructed by people within the business unit.
  • Unrealistic expectations for the project
    A project manager may be assigned to a project where upper management has set unrealistic—if not unattainable—performance requirements. This usually results in an extremely optimistic work breakdown structure that puts a great deal of pressure on the project team to meet a very aggressive timetable.
  • Management pushing for high-risk projects but not willing to accept failure as a potential result
    More and more today, organizations are taking more risks in order to complete projects faster and faster. Many of the checks and balances that used to be built into a product cycle are being eliminated as the duration of the product market cycle is continuously being decreased. Unfortunately, some management teams fail to realize that with high risk also comes an equally high probability of project failure. The impact of failure becomes even more significant in organizations with low tolerance for the failure of high-risk projects.

Business unit/organizational stresses

Projects are initiated by the organization to bring about improvement in the organization's performance, release new products, absorb acquisitions, etc. New projects and programs add an additional stress to the organization's baseline stress level. This may cause unusually high stress levels within the organization because the initiatives frequently require changes in the established processes, behaviors and core culture. The magnitude of the stress level will vary based upon the type of project/program being implemented and the ability of the organization to adapt to changing conditions.

Simultaneous active projects/programs

The third condition that needs to be addressed is the number of projects/programs that are active at the same time. In many organizations, a number of concurrent projects are active in the approved portfolio of programs and projects. Consider the following scenario:

Management initiates a change in strategy that is to be implemented through three programs, each with five subordinate projects. While most of the project outputs may only impact one business unit, all projects deliver outputs which impact the finance team. Within each of the programs, resources are constrained so that only two projects within each program can run simultaneously. As can be seen in Figure 3, each of the program managers has carefully scheduled their five projects so that no more than two projects are underway at any single point in time.

Implementation of Strategy through Three Programs

Figure 3: Implementation of Strategy through Three Programs

However, the program managers have failed to take into account the assimilation capacity of the finance team, which is limited to no more than two project outputs at any one point in time. Figure 4 shows that there will be a point where all three programs have projects delivering their outputs at the same time, thus driving the finance team into overload.

The organization's portfolio manager, the program manager—and, to a lesser degree, each individual project manager—need to consider all the organization's projects and their combined impact on the business units to minimize the chances of driving any individual business unit into overload.

Unmanaged Project Timing Overloading a Business Unit

Figure 4: Unmanaged Project Timing Overloading a Business Unit

Organization or business unit culture

The fourth condition that can cause high levels of stress is when an organization tries to implement a program that is not in line with the culture. An organization's culture is extremely hard to change and it takes a long time to bring about the transformation. The culture change challenges existing behavior patterns, standards of performance and expectations.

When this condition is encountered, management may decide to temporarily halt the program and first institute a program focused on changing the culture, or run a simultaneous culture change program. In the ideal situation, the need to modify culture is detected well before the new strategic initiative is undertaken.

What to Do to Prevent Overload

The key questions for the portfolio, program and project manager as well as the organization management team are “How do we balance our portfolio of programs and projects to achieve our critical results? In doing so, how do we manage change to prevent the organization from going into overload?” There are at least five alternatives that can be applied, all of which may be used simultaneously:

  • Make fewer changes
    This alternative sounds like a simple thing to do, but in truth, it is very difficult. If trends continue, the future is going to demand that an organization makes more changes faster than it is able to do today. The only way the organization can reduce the number of changes being implemented is to be more selective. This is where executive leadership and sponsorship play a significant role by approving business cases that advance the most critical strategic objectives.
  • Check time constraints
    The program and project managers must ensure that individuals assigned to those critical projects and programs have appropriate time allocated so they may give their best work to the projects and programs. Individual team members must ensure they escalate concerns about time constraints and priorities to their managers. Managers must collaborate with the project/program managers to reprioritize work assignments.
  • Reduce the duration of stress
    By reducing the project life cycle time from initiation to close, individuals will be exposed to stress for a shorter period of time. One way to do this is to create a program and then break up the large project into smaller, incremental projects. However, the downside is that this will often increase the time required to achieve the future state.
  • Carefully schedule the outputs
    Great care needs to be taken in managing the portfolio of programs and projects underway within the organization so it can effectively absorb the outputs. Project/program implementation needs to be scheduled taking into consideration the other stress factors going on in affected areas that require effective stakeholder engagement, communication and change management practices.
  • Keep the sustaining sponsors actively involved
    Change programs need to take into consideration the personal stresses within and outside of the organization where key individuals such as the sustaining sponsors (PMI, 2013a) are affected. A dramatic or unexpected personal event can quickly drive these individuals into overload. In addition, sustaining sponsors frequently get their focus sidetracked on the other activities that are going on within the organization, and as a result do not dedicate sufficient attention to the project that is being implemented. Their lack of attention/interest is quickly observed by the people that report to them.
  • Decrease the degree of stress related to each change
    The magnitude of stress is inversely proportional to the level of involvement affected individuals have in the project design stage. The higher the involvement, the lower the resulting stress. Once the project is designed and initiated, ongoing communication related to the project further reduces the magnitude and duration of the stress level. When the affected personnel do not understand what is going on and/or how the outputs will affect them, their stress levels increase.

Building Change Capacity

Besides taking measures to handle stress and saturation, an organization can further ensure its project and program success by building its capacity for change. Three areas that, when ignored, can constrain an organization's change capacity include talent management, standardized project management and strategic alignment. These three areas were actually noted in PMI's 2013 Pulse of the Profession® (PMI, 2013b) report as areas on which high performing organizations tend to focus. By addressing these issues through innovative financial and staffing formulas, building capacity can help position you and your projects towards greater departmental performance and, ultimately, greater profitability.

Change Capacity Drivers

Figure 5: Change Capacity Drivers

A successful model lays out a process and roadmap for organizational project management, and aligns project management practices with business strategies. As shown in Figure 5, the model focuses on three primary support structures:

  • Talent Management – ensures the organization has the knowledge, skills, and abilities within its staff that match the demands of the project or program. Change inevitably creates the need for new knowledge, skills and abilities. Anticipation of future talent needs, and preparing for those needs in advance, increases the change capacity of the organization. Enhancing talent knowledge, skills and abilities includes building the performance capabilities of existing staff and bringing new skills into the organization. Talent management also aligns personnel reviews and recognition to the desired future state defined in the organization's strategic plan.
  • Standardized Project Management – aligns the organization and its resources around efficient execution of strategy through projects and programs by providing a documented, repeatable, and measurable framework for strategy execution. Identifying lessons learned and best practices from completed projects and programs helps organizations constantly evolve their ability to effectively and efficiently deliver results and forms the basis from which to build increased change capacity.
  • Strategic Alignment – creates clear linkages between the portfolio of projects and programs and business strategy, including ongoing evaluation of the progress of each program and project toward desired business outcomes, timing of outputs and the transition of those outputs into business as usual, pausing or ending a project as a result of strategy change, and communication routines to keep the entire organization informed of progress and movement. Strategic alignment through ongoing portfolio management also ensures that resources are not consumed by projects and programs that no longer drive the strategic objectives of the organization and, thereby, increases change capacity by freeing these resources to be utilized elsewhere.

The organization that develops talent, standardized project management, and strategic alignment will have the capability to build an implementation strategy while assessing the organizational capacity for change and avoiding change overload. Standardization leads to an efficient use of resources, which allows more time and resources to focus on leading, innovating and delivering products and services—and ultimately leads to a competitive advantage (PMI, 2014). Given that the very factors that contribute to high performance have change components, it is critical that organizations both manage current change and build up their future change capacity. Building future change capacity begins with a current-state evaluation of existing change competencies.

Assess Competencies for Managing Change

Competencies are enduring master traits that predict behavior in a wide variety of situations, both in present capabilities and future capacities. Along with knowledge and skills, competencies determine the ability to adapt to change. Organizations and individuals must be capable of increasing capacity and dealing with change saturation issues. As demonstrated in the Case Study: Innovative Change at British Telecommunications on page 15, competencies that support building change capacity include:

  • Implementing change – the competency to communicate the organization's need for change to co-workers and team members alike—including training, group process facilitation and communications to implement change in discrete work groups.
  • Empowering others – the competency for sharing information, fostering employee and team member development, providing feedback, expressing positive expectations to team members and user communities, and rewards and recognition.
  • Flexing for innovation – the willingness and ability to change structures and processes as needed.
  • Facilitating team activities – the group process skills needed to understand and value the inputs of diverse groups of people to work together effectively to achieve project goals and objectives.
  • Adapting to circumstances – the ability to adapt rapidly and function effectively in any foreign environment in order to champion new products, services, and production processes.

Build Resiliency

Building capacity for change is just as critical as gauging current capacity. But in highly dynamic environments, organizations must also address resiliency. Resiliency helps organizations absorb larger amounts of change without going into overload. It typically develops over a number of years as the result of building trust in management and changing organizational behavioral patterns to the point where change is expected and valued—not feared.

Projects and programs benefit from improved resiliency when outcomes contribute to building a history of success, influencing sustainable change capacity and enabling the organization to adapt quickly to changes in the environment. Resilient organizations regain equilibrium faster while maintaining high levels of quality and productivity. When resilient employees confront the loss of control and anxiety that accompany major change efforts, they emerge stronger from the experience.

For project and program managers, there are five basic characteristics that increase resiliency:

  • 1. Have a clear vision of what they want to achieve; be focused.
  • 2. Develop structured approaches to manage and deal with ambiguity; stay organized.
  • 3. Display a sense of self-assurance that is based upon their view of their projects as being dynamic and rewarding; remain positive.
  • 4. Demonstrate flexibility when dealing with uncertainty.
  • 5. Engage change in a proactive manner; be prudent, yet aggressive.

Resilient project and program managers better navigate complex situations and are fulfilled by them. They have a clear view of what they want to achieve, leading to greater abilities for working with others in responding to change.


In today's fast paced and ever-changing environment where project schedules (and budgets) are continuously shrinking, organizations can suddenly realize that they have become dysfunctional as a result of the high stress levels prevalent due to overload. This condition needs to be prevented to ensure successful project outcomes.

Reduce stress and saturation and experience better project and program success by carefully taking into account the capacities of the affected teams and the impact that change will have on their workflow and productivity. By developing your organization's talent, standardizing project management as well as keeping your projects and programs focused on strategic goals, you can avoid change overload and improve your organization's capacity for change.


APQC (2013). Open innovation: Enhancing idea generation through collaboration. American Productivity & Quality Center. Retrieved from

EIU (2013). Why good strategies fail: Lessons for the C-suite. The Economist Intelligence Unit Ltd. Retrieved from

Harrington, H. J., Conner, D. R., Horney, N. F. (2000). Project change management: Applying change management to improvement projects. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies.

Lazarus, R. A. (1966). Psychological stress and the coping process. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company.

PMI (2013a). The sponsor as the face of organizational change. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute. Retrieved from

PMI, (2013b). Pulse of the Profession®. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

PMI (2014) Pulse of the Profession®: The high cost of low performance, Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute. Retrieved from

Innovative Change at British Telecommunications

[Based on information presented in Open Innovation: Enhancing Idea Generation Through Collaboration (APQC, 2013).]

Organizations can overcome change saturation and support assimilation, even in dynamic and turbulent business environments. British Telecommunications (BT) sits in one of the most competitive markets in the United Kingdom with about 200 voice competitors and about 250 Internet competitors. It provides voice, broadband, and business services including information and communications technology, conferencing, collaboration, cloud, and security and is rolling out fiber broadband services in the United Kingdom. In order to remain competitive and build new revenue sources, BT must constantly innovate its product line. The company's dynamic portfolio and its impact on business units could easily create change saturation. However, BT has built a culture and processes to proactively drive change.

The key for avoiding change saturation at BT is twofold: constant communication; and visible integration of staff within the innovation strategy. BT places a strong emphasis on communication up and down the organization and across business units to make sure everyone is aware of what is happening and why, and to ensure constant alignment across the organization. Similarly, everyone in the organization understands their roles in supporting the innovation process—from contributing ideas, to shaping opportunities, to executing projects that deliver new services to customers. Over time, BT has built a cultural environment where change agility is integrated into daily practice.

At BT, it starts with innovation as a strategy and staff engagement in realizing strategic results. BT uses a variety of methods for maintaining employee engagement with innovation initiatives. The organization publishes an internal print magazine with profiles about employees who have generated exceptional ideas. An online version of the magazine is maintained on BT's intranet site and features additional content. Employees are also sent top-down communications about the organization's innovation efforts in order to highlight the support and involvement of senior managers.

BT created a centralized innovation group that is connected to, and services, the organization's business units. The innovation group acts as a resource that any business unit can use when it has an innovation question or an idea that it wants to pursue and develop. This group not only responds to requests for assistance from business units but also helps those units adopt innovation. To support accelerated innovation development, the group includes skilled project managers who support innovation initiatives from inception through delivery. Thus, the innovation team retains project flow because there is no need to transition the project or detailed knowledge to another team.

Teaming is critical for BT's innovation practices. For example, BT brings together about 80 to 90 individuals from across business units and external groups with an interest in a particular product or service. Those individuals participate in hothouses —three-day competitive events that BT adopted from the software industry. Hothouses can occur at any time from when an idea is first introduced to the completion of its business case. The purpose of the hothouse changes depending upon the extent of development done on the idea up to that point. That is, early in the idea development process, a hothouse event could be held to further refine the idea, whereas later in the development process, a hothouse could be held as a way to accelerate a business case and product trial.

Participants generally come from BT's marketing, customer support, and engineering groups and sometimes include external suppliers and partners. The staff is divided into cross-disciplinary teams, which will compete against each other. The teams are given a problem statement and must develop a proposed solution. At the end of each day, the teams present their developments to a judging panel made up of senior executives for the business unit that will own the product or service. If possible, BT has customers on the judging panel as well. The panel awards points to each of the teams based on their work results, with the winning team being the one with the most points at the end of the three-day period. The teams are encouraged to steal ideas from other teams so that the winning idea is the combination of the best ideas developed during the hothouse event.

After the event, BT's Applied Technology Centre works with the business unit that will own the product to ensure that deliverables for the product rollout are met. The team that developed the solution is kept informed or engaged in the development process.

BT has developed a set of criteria for the staff members in its centralized innovation group, and an important element of their roles is that of change agent. All group members must have enough experience with technology to articulate to other BT employees how new technology features will translate into business benefits. They must also be able to establish relationships with both internal stakeholders and external partners. Open innovation staff members who work with external partners must have project management skills, that include relationship development, in addition to the more traditional process skills. Staff members who work with innovation activities involving other BT employees must be connected within the organization so that they can help keep employees engaged.

Innovation is everyone's responsibility at BT. Senior managers often come to the innovation group's scouting team with a particular need they want to address with new technologies. Staff members within the scouting group conduct background research to understand what needs to be addressed by the solution, as well as the key players and trends in the area. Scouting group staff members then identify and meet with various companies that may provide a solution for the need, narrow the group of potential companies down to a core group, and present the core group to the senior managers. Once the potential partners have been presented to senior management, the senior managers and scouting staff members discuss the potential impacts of partnering with the companies.

Beyond senior management, BT's New Ideas Scheme is a crowd-sourcing initiative aimed at its employees. All of BT's employees have access to the initiative's IT platform through which they can submit an idea, vote, or comment on ideas. Idea submissions identify ways to run the business more efficiently, ways BT can save money, new products, and new features for existing products.

A group of about 100 evaluators review the screened idea submissions. Evaluators are BT employees from different units within the organization and are typically experts in their fields. Ideas that progress past the evaluation stage are prepared for adoption, which involves identifying a product manager or operational manager who will own the idea. About three percent of submitted ideas make it to the adoption stage.

New Ideas Scheme has dedicated staff members that keep employees engaged with the initiative and also notify idea submitters of the status of their submission. If an idea is rejected, then these staff members provide guidance to the submitter on how to improve future submissions. The staff members also run idea campaigns that present a specific problem to a select group of employees for solution generation.

By implementing all of these advanced strategies, BT helps drive innovation and change throughout the organization all the while avoiding saturation.

Capacity-Building Strategies

Introducing managers to the role of influence systems builds capacity and creates readiness by rebalancing the project's process workload. Influence systems affect the degree to which change can be initiated and successfully sustained. Figure 6 shows how the four influence systems relate to four primary project management dimensions. Each of the influence systems relates to one organizational and project management dimension, all of which are highly interactive and interdependent. Changes made to any single influence system will often cause changes to occur in another.

Project-Related Influence Systems

Figure 6: Project-Related Influence Systems

  • Project leadership influence systems
    When the project vision is clear, it helps ensure stability and build capacity. By bringing new problem-solving and idea creation possibilities forward, management is putting value-adding ideas into use by the groups involved. As all change involves confrontations with uncertainty, project managers who take prudent risks are better able to lead the change and mitigate risks with the highest potential impact.
  • Project structure influence systems
    The project management role is to add, protect, enhance, or expand value to the organization. Interpersonal relationships can help expand capacity by leveraging informal networks having common interests, shared values, and goals. There are four major strategies that project managers can use: (1) increase their ability to pre-plan using clear roles, responsibilities, and objectives; (2) increase their flexibility and agility to adapt to their inability to pre-plan; (3) decrease the level of performance required for ongoing visibility; and (4) ensure that individual team member recognition is linked to individual/project performance.
  • Process influence systems
    Planning is required to determine which factors are needed to achieve project and organizational goals before activity takes place. This involves managers making some choices among strategic, production, and operational alternatives, along with preparation for action. Poor planning negates other capacity building strategies; ideally, capacity is greatly enhanced when all plans are consistent, strongly integrated, and well synchronized, and contribute to the successful attainment of collective goals, thereby increasing synergy within the portfolio of projects and the organization.
  • Team member and organizational workforce influence systems
    Managers need to consider the values of individuals and groups within the organization. The individuals’ collective skills, abilities, and performance can be multiplied by technology, expanding organizational capacity and motivation. Project training furthers this goal. Managers’ active concern for behaviors leads to greater commitment, improved perception, and reduced resistance to change.

Creating an appealing vision of the future state further enhances capacity building and fostering confidence that the future state can be achieved. Building capacity starts with strategic project planning, while training enhances motivation for change. Finally, the capacity of all resources is enhanced by leadership, measured by the success of desired project outcomes, and assessed by the perception of and adaptability to change.

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May 2014



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