Unless you are actively involved in the field of project management, change management, or strategy, it is unlikely that you think in terms of a change portfolio. If the change that you are facing–or are currently engaged in–is personal, it is even less likely that a “portfolio” is in your frame of reference.
Unfortunately, that puts your change effort at significant risk.
Let’s begin by taking a minute to define what is meant by “change portfolio.” Simply put, it is all of those things that need to shift in order to deliver the intended outcome of your change. You may hear different language…projects, programs, work streams, change components. Each of these has its own meaning. But for us, focusing on change at the individual or small organization level, it’s enough to talk about “all the changes we have to make.”
Several months ago, we focused on a key message from Simon Sinek and others… Start with what’s in your heart. (see Don’t Start With a Plan.) We spent several blogs talking about the creation, and the telling, of your change story. These are important precursors to creating your change portfolio. Only when you know where you are going, and what it is going to be like once you get there, can you know what needs to change along the way.
There are several ways you may go about identifying what is in your change portfolio at this point. The process may vary, depending on the scope of what you are trying to change, whether the change is personal or organizational, and so forth. (Feel free to contact me offline if you want to discuss your situation.) But however you approach it, I would suggest you factor in the following.
- What element(s) of the outcome does each of the changes contribute to?
- For each change that is identified, how difficult will it be to execute, how critical is it, and how much will it contribute to the outcome?
- If is is difficult and less-than-critical, can it be cut from the portfolio?
- If it is easy, and less-than-critical, can it be cut from the portfolio?
- When you look at all of the changes in the portfolio, will they deliver the outcomes you are seeking, or is something missing?
I recommend some form of white board/index cards/sticky notes process. And, I recommend having a bottle of aspirin nearby. This is one of those “Oh, S!*#” moments…when you begin to have some real in-depth understanding about what it will really take to succeed with the change.
The next question to ask yourself is, What other changes are going on? Why? Quite simply, each one eats up something: time, money, psychic energy, focus, the ability to adapt to change. As much as is possible, you should consider terminating, reducing in scope, or delaying them so that they don’t interfere with the important change that you are addressing.
Now, come back to your portfolio. It may contain 10, 20, 30, or more changes. As I noted earlier, it is likely that it frightened you (and anyone engaged in the process of defining it with you) when you first worked through what is in the portfolio. Introducing the portfolio to others will be just as frightening. So, before you do, see if you can weave some of the changes together.
For example, perhaps your change is a major shift in career. You’ve identified a series of changes that you need to make related to preparing yourself for the new career (select a program of study, enroll in night school, complete the program, obtain employment, earn certification, etc.). There may be another set of changes related to financing this shift (reduce budgeted expenses by 15%, obtain a student loan, etc.). And, there may be others…
By weaving the related changes together, you can begin to focus on “the path to career readiness” and “laying the financial foundation.” While initiating your change portfolio at that aggregate a level is dangerous (you don’t know what is really required for success), rolling things back up to that level once you have defined the portfolio makes it much more palatable.
Have you ever taken a change portfolio approach to your personal or small business change? What has been your experience? Please comment, and share your own experiences.