Pauliina Juhola: Identified change need is nothing without a clear change vision

Identifying change needs is usually quite easy in organisations. Depending on the organisational culture, change needs are identified and evaluated either continuously or as part of the strategy process, for instance. Operating model, processes, organisational structures or IT systems requiring changes are identified in different levels of the organisation. Top management is usually eager on paying attention to issues that have direct financial impact. Employees are more interested in renewing their ways of working to make them easier and more straightforward.

When the change need has been identified and prioritised for execution, the change project is set up. Project teams usually consist of target-oriented and productive persons, who will quickly start to proceed towards the project´s goal: better customer and employee experience, more efficient processes and higher level of automation or better financial results by renewed operating model. However, before undertaking any actions, the change vision must be defined.

What is our targeted future state? How do we know when the change is ready? Where is our focus? What is changing and what remains the same? What does the change mean to our customers?

Defining the change vision requires time and effort. It´s crucial to involve all the relevant people in the work. But when the work is done carefully, it will pay back in the later phases of the project. There are several different methods and tools available for structuring the work. In my previous project I used Business Model Canvas tool, which I found both practical and comprehensive. Regardless the tool you choose to use, keep in mind that only the end result matters: shared and clear vision for the change. With Business Model Canvas it´s also easy to create a nice print of the vision and put it in a visible place on the project room´s wall.

Change vision is like an anchor that keeps the boat steady even in heavy wind and high waves. Concrete and influential change vision truly helps people in their daily work and decision-making. Everybody will sail into the same direction.

It´s more than usual that the environment outside the project changes along the project lifecycle. There might be changes in the organisational structures, business environment or customer behaviour. Clear change vision helps the project team to keep their heads clear even with rapid changes. All project team members can act as change agents within the organisation and tell the same story about the big picture. Clear vision also creates the base for all change communication. In order to create good communication materials and define the key messages, the change vision needs to be understandable and influential. If it´s not, the communication often fails because it is too abstract. Clear change vision, defined together with the top management, often makes also their job easier when making decisions on financing the project and next steps. And when the project proceeds to the deployment phase, the vision helps people impacted by the change to understand it better.

Many organisations have started to take steps towards agile ways of working. Should we think about the change vision completely differently in an agile enterprise? In my experience, a well-defined change vision rarely crumbles completely during the project life-cycle. Some refining is needed for sure, as the world around us keeps changing with an enormous speed.

What are your best practices with agile adjustment of change vision during the project?