Episode #22

Leading Organization-Wide Transformation with an Enterprise Change Agenda

with Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson

Most organizations today are fraught with so much change that it’s hard for leaders to stay on top of everything they are asking of the organization.

In this episode, Linda describes the need for and elements of the Enterprise Change Agenda, a proven mechanism to organize and coordinate an organization’s priority initiatives so they can realistically and effectively achieve their outcomes.

The Enterprise Change Agenda is an advanced strategy used by senior leaders who recognize the need to oversee and orchestrate their organization’s major change efforts and thereby cut costs, time, waste, and re-work so commonly experienced. Linda offers listeners a downloadable assessment to evaluate if your organization would benefit from an Enterprise Change Agenda.

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Video of Episode


Welcome to Ask Dr. Change. I’m Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson. I’m happy to have you join me today to explore how to seriously up level your leadership and consulting to transformational changes all through conscious change leadership.

Welcome. Today’s episode is about leading organization wide transformation using an enterprise change agenda. The Enterprise Change agenda is an advanced change discipline that helps leaders orchestrate the magnitude of changes going on in the organization. It’s really positioned to influence how change led and supports the leaders to really be on top of what they’re asking of the organization.

So how many changes do you have underway today in your organization or your clients organizations? Do leaders even know? I will share with you this story where the light bulb went on about the importance of our creating the enterprise change agenda. Discipline.

I was called years ago by a major health care system, a province wide health care system in Canada, and their ask went something like this. We have identified 200 change initiatives across all of our hospitals and we realized it was way too much. So as leaders, we went through a process to evaluate down and we came up with 58 really important ones. And when we looked at each other, we realized that’s still too much for us to do and still provide health care.

What do we do from here? So that was my initial prompt and they went on in as we created all of this, to tailor a whole process to orchestrate their 58 down to 30, down to eight buckets that were far more reasonable, able to manage across the system. So many times I you know, I asked them and I would ask you, how do all of the change initiatives get approval? How could there possibly be so many without anybody looking at what you’re asking of the organization?

How many are transformational, how many are complex, how many influence the entire enterprise or a whole function have major impact? All of these are critical questions for leaders to get their arms around. It’s important to understand do you need an enterprise change agenda and how could it add value to how well the organization is leading its major changes? So consider these issues.

This will help you identify if you actually need an enterprise change agenda. First up, These are comments that you would likely hear or that you feel yourself. We have too many change initiatives underway that was similar with this health care system. We have no way to track how many we have, what their status is.

And are these the right ones for our business strategy? We have a lot of competition between and among initiatives. competition for resources, for attention, for capacity. We have no prioritization among our initiatives and no thoughtful sequencing.

Some happened first, but should have happened later. There’s complexity and confusion. We have no mechanism to ensure that what’s happening within our major functions or departments align with what’s best for the overall strategy for the business. Are we actually doing what’s necessary for the overall business?

We have no gatekeepers for how much change is undertaken or how projects get approved. They just get added to the plate. And this one I like this idea, Ed, that I like this idea. Ed that they just keep getting added and there’s not enough capacity to handle all of it.

So how do we handle operations as well as all this change? Operations is getting hurt by how much we’re trying to do or the changes just aren’t happening because operational capacity is maxed. Perhaps there’s no consistent oversight or resource expenditures for how you’re handling all of the external consultants at play in the organization. Gosh, I’ve entered so many organizations that have three or four, even five different major change consulting houses in working on various initiatives in different ways and butting up against them, competing for them.

How do you handle all your external change consultants? And perhaps there’s no process to stop or modify non-essential change initiatives or those that are discretionary. All of these factors, all of these concerns point in the direction of needing an enterprise change agenda. They all are costly, challenging, difficult and leaders, if we haven’t already identified guide for them, they know when we do identify these issues that they have them going on and don’t know what to do.

Many organizations are starting an enterprise level which is really powerful, an enterprise level change discipline or an organization or a function overseeing major enterprise level work in the organization. This could fit very well there. It is an executive function. The leaders have to participate.

So what can an enterprise change agenda do for you and your organization? We have five major benefits I want to cover with you. These would be a part of your value proposition and your selling points, by the way, for doing this kind of thing, let alone the assessment of those various challenges I just went over with you. So benefits.

First up, the current change efforts are the right ones to execute in full support of our business strategy. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that what we’re working on is the top priority and the best use of our resources? We know these are the right ones. Secondly, of our efforts are prioritized, organized, assigned, paced and launched optimally.

Wow. Consider how many times change efforts get launched and have to go redos and redos and redos. In this way, we have a protocol. We have ways of organizing priority sizing, sequencing, and launching them effectively because we have our arms around them.

Thirdly, we know the organization has the capacity, the stamina, the capability, and we have the in-house resources to carry out and succeed in all of these major change efforts. Wow. That’s absolutely essential conditions for success. Capacity number one, stamina.

We’re not running out of steam here. Capability and the in-house resources to deliver. Not that you can’t also have external consultants. However, benefits for is ensuring the best coordination, allocation and leverage of your external consultants.

is oftentimes so much confusion and waste and cost associated with not managing your external consultants across the agenda. Many times, again, as I mentioned, they compete or they don’t even know the others are working or they have very different styles and goals for their work. So this gives you an opportunity to step back and recognize how are we using our external consultants and are we getting our bang for the buck? And the enterprise change agenda enables you to take a cultural lens on all of the changes and to ensure that all of the major changes, especially if they’re transformational, are driving the culture in the best possible way for the future of the organization.

This is a way of looking at the cultural implications of your major change efforts and making sure that the cultural work and the cultural changes are being aligned to what the organization needs in its future state. So five major benefits and what leader wouldn’t want all of these benefits taking on the enterprise change agenda is a paradigm shift for leaders. It is a changed discipline. Like we have so many disciplines in organizations, in technology and finance, in human resources.

This is a change discipline that will enable the organization to radically up level its control, its use of its value, gained its costs of how it orchestrates the changes required to fulfill its strategic plan. So I want to describe to you various aspects of the enterprise change agenda. Consider all of this, making sure that you understand how all of this works. So where does that enterprise change agenda fit in the organization’s current strategic processes?

Picture this sequence. We start with strategic planning. Every organization has some kind of strategic planning process, and so we go through strategic planning. What are the trends we’re dealing with, the challenges we’re dealing with our environmental forces we’re dealing with?

And what does that say about what the organization needs to do in its next chapter, its next future state? So from strategic planning, inevitably we identify potential initiatives that are required for us to fulfill that strategy. We may not have everything going on in the organization required to fulfill that strategy. Maybe we have things going on, but they’re not driving in the right direction.

So we identify the work required to fulfill that business strategy. This identifies potential initiatives. Next is where the enterprise change agenda fits. And so the enterprise change agenda process works to organize and prioritize all of the change efforts required for the business strategy, as well as existing and ongoing change efforts that are underway and so that potential new ones get added to the agenda.

You have a second opportunity to step back and say, Can we do all of this? Are we organized in the right way? And then if the answer is yes, then you proceed with Operation and financial planning in the organization, keeping what’s on the enterprise change agenda in mind because it will affect capital costs, operational costs for how the organization needs to continue to function. And certainly it will affect where you put your finances, your budgetary resources to ensure the change efforts are supported deliver on their outcomes.

So you have operational financial planning, then new initiatives are launched now coordinated with ongoing initiatives, and we’re orchestrating how change is being rolled out in the organization, not all at once, because they may need different sequencing or pacing, but they are launched as appropriate given the planning that we’ve done about what’s needed for them to support the business. The integration across initiatives is launched again, both with new initiatives and ongoing initiatives, and the integration has enormous value for reducing costs, reducing redos, optimizing resources, optimizing sequencing and pacing.

So integration takes place and then we have ongoing monitoring, updating the the enterprise change agenda process and what’s on it as time proceeds. It’s not a one and done. We do this once a year often like we do strategic planning because initiatives show up throughout the year. And so we have a place to consider what we want to take on, what we can take on and what’s necessary for the organization to be successful in what it needs to produce.

I want to share with you how the enterprise change agenda works. And so what’s required inside this bucket, this discipline of initiate an enterprise change agenda. First up, like that health care system did, you need to identify and assess the status of known initiatives that are currently underway in the organization? They went from 200 to 58.

We ultimately got them down to 30 and then eight buckets of initiative. So we orchestrated that, but they needed to have a master list to begin with. So first up is assessing on your master list what is currently known about changes going on in the organization. Now in particular, those that are affecting the enterprise and the resources and capacity required, then the leaders who want to create or get approval for new initiatives, they would identify those initiatives and prepare those initiatives using a tailored proposal template.

So this is something that gets created. How do you propose an initiative to have it be considered to be added to the change agenda? There are enormous benefits to orchestrating the information. You gather around a change initiative, not just the business case, very important, but beyond the business case.

There are other things that are helpful to leaders to understand how to say yes or should they say yes? Given everything else going on in the organization. So there is a proposal process. Then the leadership team or the Enterprise Change Agenda team assesses those proposals against series of selection criteria.

So this is something else the leaders would identify. How are we going to agree that this belongs on the agenda and this doesn’t? What are our selection criteria, something that they generate? And it’s also flexible given the realities of the organization changing over time.

From that selection criteria and assessment, they provide a go no go decision, and that leads to a prioritization of what they have said yes to what actually goes into the SCA. Once they have an agreement of what is in the ACA, new initiative, as well as ongoing initiatives, they can stand back and have a candid conversation about what I call a capacity review for change. Do they have what’s required in the organization or consulting support? Can we do all this?

Can we take all of this on? Given the operational requirements and the challenges we have of what’s happening? Do we have the ability to take all of this on? So capacity review happens next.

here is a technique that we have found very powerful. We call it air traffic control. So when we have a set of initiatives, we’ve agreed we could take them on. Then we map them into an air traffic control map to integrate with the new initiatives, with ongoing initiatives for pacing, sequencing, interdependencies, resourcing.

This has so much value to look at who’s on first, who goes first, who takes off first, who takes off second, and how can we optimize our resources. Because we can see where trainings, communications surveys, working sessions all have to happen over time to support ideally multiple initiatives simultaneously. So that’s both an organization and an acceleration strategy. So when you launch your new initiatives and you consciously design how they are governed, how they are scoped, how their capacity is used, how they’re resourced.

And so new initiatives get launched and you have the opportunity over time to stop or modify initiatives as needed. Some are working. Some aren’t working. Some need to change.

Some have a different now, a different scope. And so you have the opportunity over time to stop or modify as you check in on your enterprise change agenda periodically. Clearly, you’d be communicating to the organization. And when the initial annual change agenda is set and over time as adjustments take place, especially for the people who are affected by the enterprise change agenda, decisions that are made over time.

And then, of course, as always, you’re monitoring for the status of it the value of it reporting periodic. This is working. This is not working. We have too much, we have too little.

And a periodic executive review. I will share with you the importance of leaders really taking this on as an ongoing process. It’s not just one and done. As I said, have many experiences of using this, but one experience I will share with you is we went through all the executives, the top most probably top 20, We went through a two day both education and working session with the executives to design their enterprise change agenda.

They had their master list done in advance. They tailored their proposal format, their selection criteria, their priorities against the business strategy, how they were going to launch effectively. They tailored the entire process and set it in place in one of their major leadership teams, not the executive team. It was a special team that met and the internal consultant who was ahead of enterprise change at the time was the person responsible for it.

Well, a variety of things took place in that particular case where it worked beautifully for a while and then culturally, they wanted all of their changes to proceed and were willing to take off the plate their pet projects, because that’s so frequently happens. And eventually, over time, the whole process just fell apart because they weren’t willing to actually commit to deliver on their proposals, their capacity assessments, their timing, etc.. So it really does require leaders to commit to embed this think this way. So it requires thinking for the enterprise, not just their own individual function or department.

So there are a variety of considerations as in taking on an enterprise change agenda. One thing to consider is having one for the entire enterprise. So an organization wide overarching change agenda, then each function or each department can have its own change agenda so that it too is managing its resources and capacity. That all moves up into the overarching enterprise agenda so that the enterprise knows what’s happening within the functions, but functions themselves can create and manage their own change agenda.

As long as it’s in support of the enterprise. As I mentioned, senior leaders really need to align to this approach beyond the head nod. And as a storyteller, the streets. It’s an investment of time and energy and a paradigm shift for how we actually orchestrate change in the organization.

So you really need beyond the head nod leadership alignment. One of the things that’s really important about this is that existing initiatives are evaluated and dropped. If they don’t fit the priorities of the organization or the business strategy. That’s an important piece.

And if something is taken off the agenda, think about the implications of stopping that work, stopping the project team, influencing or communicating with the stakeholders who are expecting something. Maybe you’re not that far along, so it’s easier to stop it. But think through all the implications of taking something off the plate or delaying it, or potentially in integrating it into a larger initiative. All of that has to be managed.

There clearly are decisions around sequencing, pacing, resourcing. So anything that’s already underway may be altered because of the decisions made in the enterprise change agenda. conversation meeting about what’s most important for the organization communications about all of this. Really essential.

You’re up leveling all of your leaders and managers, understanding that the organization is orchestrating in some ways controlling and keeping abreast of all the changes that are going on. It’s not willy nilly, it’s not spaghetti at the wall. We actually know what we’re doing and we’re making conscious choices because we recognize we have the capacity and resources to do it. So again, as I mentioned, if something’s taken off, you have to think through the implications of that of anything that’s affected by this process.

And then, of course, you have ongoing monitoring of priorities and resources, capacity, timing over time. It’s an ongoing process. So a few additional things here. What you’re creating to tailor to the organization.

Yes, there are templates, but to have the leaders really get into what they want to have take place in their enterprise change agenda, really important for their ownership. So, first of all, how would you track identify all of the initiatives going on in the organization? So a master project list, what information do you need in the electric utility there? Master list was incredibly detailed about capacity numbers of people, how much time resources required, how the status of it, how far along it was, how many redos their list was incredible.

And that took a lot of attention by leaders to identify all that information for their status reporting. It was important to them. Your master list could be more generic, more high level or more detailed. Either is fine if it fits the style of the leaders in helping them to make decisions about what do we have going on and what do we need in relation to our future.

The leaders will also be tailoring their initiative proposal format. So what information do they need to know to decide if this is a good initiative to take on right now or not? And so clearly it’s benefit to the organization. It’s business case essential how much capacity they think will be required, how many people stakeholders will be affected in the organization, their proposed timing.

If there’s leeway in that, that’s obviously the scope. And for us, the scope is more than the content. It’s also cultural implications, mindset and behavior implications as well as what the impacts on the organization. So a proposal format needs to be created that works for the organization and the leaders.

Then a really critical one is the identification of selection criteria to accept new initiatives into the enterprise change agenda. So how will they prioritize and evaluate those initiatives being proposed? And again, thinking very carefully about capacity and timing and value to the business at an enterprise level, really important criteria. And then lastly, the leaders would want to create a template and process for their air traffic control management system.

So this can be handled electronically. It can be handled virtually or person in person as a major map on wall. There are a variety of ways of doing air traffic control, so they’ll design what works for them that they’re really willing to use and update regularly. So all of the roles need to be identified of who’s going to organize all of this, who’s going to oversee it, who’s going to manage it over time.

And that person obviously has to have major support, buy and acceptance by legitimacy by the senior leaders. So it’s really essential that all of this needs to to have your leaders be educated and knowledgeable about what’s possible here. And they need to recognize and take on the startup work for them, for the leaders itself, to design their own enterprise change agenda. If it’s at all possible.

You could start with an assessment of the quantity, type, magnitude and status. Your master list of current initiatives underway. And so you have an idea of what’s on the plate already the numbers, the pacing, the sequencing, the status, etc. So that’s important for your ability to oversee what’s actually happening in the organization.

There is so much strategic leverage and benefit from an enterprise change agenda process. Again, it’s an advanced strategy and it’s one instead of leaders thinking individually about initiatives, big or small, transformational or not. It gives them an opportunity to see the big picture of what they’re asking of the organization. And again, they can manage it by enterprise level and in function or business unit level, department level as well.

The one other thing I’ll say that’s really important to keep in mind is that your leaders need to understand that they are senior change leaders. They’re not just delegated to project teams, to project managers. They really have to see that they are in charge of what they’re asking of the organization and the implications of what they’re asking, and that they’re setting the organization up to be successful to achieve sustained results from the major changes that are needed in the organization. So not for the faint of heart, but absolutely hugely important.

So my pro tip for you today is to think about the quantity and status of all the changes going on in your organization or your client organizations. How could you raise leaders awareness of the magnitude and complexity of what they’re asking of the organization? If you can get approval to do a master list assessment of number and status of initiatives in the organization right now, proceed to do that. And if not, how can you still do this assessment to be able to make the case to senior leaders about the value of taking on an enterprise change agenda process to better manage all that’s going on in the organization?

I will mention to you that the Ask Dr. Change website has a downloadable enterprise change agenda assessment to help you identify if you need one. And so again, the ask Dr. Change website.

As a downloadable version, I welcome you. I encourage you to download it. Look at what it asks. I’ve covered a number of the factors today and to see if you can get an assessment by your leaders or managers to see how much value you would gain from an enterprise change agenda.

So this strategy is well worth the investment. Again, it just adds attention and capacity by the senior leaders, but steps them up to be true change leaders of their organization. 

Now, my personal reflection for you today is where do you stand in relation to all of this? How comfortable are you at raising, identifying and seeing the big picture and engaging leaders at this level of influence to orchestrate the work of the enterprise in designing an easier process of taking them through the process of tailoring it to them?

How comfortable are you? Are you positioned to do so? And what might stand in your way? What are those internal voices that say, I could never do this, I’m not seen this way, I’m not positioned this way.

How could you make moving in this direction possible for you, let alone for the organization? Again, I mentioned this is advanced work, but it’s absolutely cutting edge to support the magnitude of transformation and change happening in our organizations today. I encourage you to seriously consider what it would take for you to move in this direction. Imagine, you can imagine you can have these conversations with your senior leaders.

And if you take on this work, I want to hear from you. I want to hear how it’s going and what’s working for you. Please let me know if you have questions about this. It is so worth the investment.

It is a high gain action. I hope you gain some value from today. And thanks for spending some time with me. Today’s subject is one of the key topics that we feature in our leading transformational change online program.

If you’d like to learn more about leading transformation social change, go to beingfirst.com/LTC. Thanks for spending some time with me today. I hope you gain some valuable insights for your work. Please send me your questions and challenges by going to askdrchange.com.


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