Impact Bubbles! A new tool for Change Management

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A new Change Management technique: Impact Bubbles helps you to identify where to focus your effort in your change.

In many Change frameworks is something described about people. The people you need to talk to will your change project be successful. John Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model talks about forming a powerful coalition. Everett Rogers talks in the Innovation Adaption Curve about people that can play different roles in a change. We, Annelies and I, already talked about four categories of people in a change in our article called the Impact Matrix.

Nice, but how do you define the people who are relevant in your change? We developed a new tool that we teach in our workshop: Impact Bubbles.

The new Change Management Tool

The first step is to identify all the actors in your change. The actors you know that can be relevant for your change. You could, for example, use the actors you used in your Impact Matrix. The actors can be teams, individuals, managers, leaders, etc. It is about actors that can influence your change. Write the actors on a big flipchart.  Draw a circle around every actor.

Step 1 – Define the actors for your Change initiative

In the example above, we use a small organization with some development teams, an operation team, scrum master, team lead, a VP Software Development, VP Sales and the CEO. The organization is bigger, but these are the actors that are relevant to this change. The change project could be, for example, merge development and operation.

The second step is to think about the impact an actor can make. We all recognize that a CEO can create more impact than the man at the reception desk. The Agile coach, who coaches six teams in two different departments, can make more impact than the team lead of three of those teams. An HR team can make a lot of impacts as they are connected to many different parts of the organization. Think about the impact an actor can make. It can be High, Medium, or Low. Just write H, M, or L in the circle of the actor.

Step 2 – Define the impact per actor on the Change initiative

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The third step is to look at the official organization, the reporting lines in your organization. Which actor reports to which actor, where are the formal communication lines. This step is about formal communication lines! Connect the circle of the actors according to the official communication lines you identified. Use, for example, a blue marker.

Step 3 – Connect actors according to official communication lines

You probably end up with the org chart and some extra communication lines because of projects or temporary workgroups.

Till now, we focussed on official communication. I helped many organizations. In one organization, the CTO was really well connected with one of the architects. They were employee number 1 and 2. The company grew a lot, but still, they were very strongly connected. Not according to the hierarchy or official communication lines. We all know these connections. People who know each other because they grew up in the same town, kids in the same school, the same sports team, etc. Personal communication lines are more important than the official one. The informal communication is based on trust, proven expertise. Where the formal lines are often based on power. 

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We have the flipchart with the actors and official communication lines in blue.

Next step is to add personal communication lines. The one that you are aware of! As said, those are the informal lines, and you don’t know all of them. Unless you work at the NSA. Draw them in pink between the actors.

It is as Kotler described in his book Accelerate. The existing of a traditional organizational hierarchy and the network-like structure in the same organization. Both are there.

Step 4 – Draw the personal communication lines

It turns out team 1 is very social, and helping team 2 and the Ops team already a lot. The VP Sales is good friends with the software tester in team 2, they bike to work together. The Scrum master is external and has good relations with the VP’s and CEO. They used to work together in a previous project.

The final part in this new Change Management tool is to calculate the value of each actor. The formula is:

((Number of Official Links connected to the actor * 1) + (Number of unofficial Links connected to the actor * 3 )) * (Impact)

When the impact is high, use the value three. Impact is medium, value is two, and when the value is low, the value is one.

See the example below.

step 5 – Calculate the impact score for every actor

This will give you the impact score per actor. Actors with a high score need your attention. Actors with a high score can make a lot of impact because their impact factor is high, and they have a lot of official connections. Or maybe they are the spider on the web, know many people in the organization, and have a lot of informal power.

Five steps of Impact Bubbles Change Management technique

To summarize, the five steps are:

  1. Identify all actors related to your change initiative. This could be teams, individuals, departments, etc.
  2. Decide on the impact the actors have on your change project
  3. Draw the official communication lines between the actors
  4. Draw the personal communication lines between the actors
  5. Calculate the Impact score per actor

Is this a one-time exercise? No, definitely not. We advise you to do the Impact Bubbles with your change management team, and review/update it now and then. You know when enough has changed to update the Impact Bubbles. Just add Impact Bubbles to your Change Management toolkit.

Annelies and I teach the Impact Bubbles technique to all our attendees in our revised Lean Change Management Workshop. People always love it. Why? Not because they get surprising new insights, that doesn’t happen that often. The reason people like it because it makes their gut feeling less gut feeling. It is on paper, and they can discuss it with other Change Agents. It becomes much more tangible and something they can talk about.

Learn more about Change Management and useful tools

Are you interested in learning about the Impact Bubbles tool, attend one of our Lean Change Management workshops, or just drops us an email.

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