Scott R. Coplan

The Trojan Horse

The Problem

Remember the Trojan Horse? It was a wooden horse the Greeks used to enter Troy and win the Trojan war which had raged on for ten years. The Greeks built the enormous wooden horse and hid a select group of soldiers inside of it. They then offered it to the Trojans as a gift. The Greeks pretended to sail away and the Trojans moved the horse into their city, thinking it was their victory trophy. That night, the Greek soldiers climbed out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army which had sailed back. The Greeks then entered the city of Troy and destroyed the city and ended the war.
Change is often like a Trojan Horse. It’s tricky. For example, the pandemic unleashed vast amounts of hidden change on organizations, causing an overload on everyone. We must now address a worldwide workforce shortage, overcome massive supply chain disruptions, work remotely, support online ordering and rapid delivery of almost everything, enforce and maintain new health and safety standards, and so on. If we don’t figure out how to manage this change overload, we’ll suffer costly consequences, if we haven’t already, like increased turnover, decreased productivity, greater absenteeism, and more.
Change inevitably introduces a certain amount of negative outcomes. So, how do we navigate implementing change successfully without an overload like a surprise attack from soldiers creeping our of a Trojan Horse?

The Solution

Change is complex and so is the solution to manage and minimize change overload. A key characteristic of change and most anything to do with managing it is one size does not fit all. The reason has to do with the organizational climate where change occurs, like:
  • Leadership varies in how well they communicate, demonstrate, and reinforce commitment to and ownership of change and how it effects employees
  • Project Management Offices (PMOs) differ based on whether they track an enterprise portfolio of all change initiatives indicating whether projects compete for the same resources and effect the same parts of the organization
  • Organizational adaptability fluctuates because some normally embrace change, while others maintain the status quo
  • Change scope, volume, and depth differences, at any given time, affect an organization’s ability to change
  • Feedback and measurement reporting systems availability affects how leaders, change agents, and targets share information about the impact of change initiatives
Gathering information about your organization’s climate does not deliver a prescription on how to calibrate a specific amount of change that minimizes an overload. Instead, it offers a baseline of where you are today, identifying what you must do to ready your organization to manage change and an overload.
Managing change overload relies on quantifiable measures, assessing a trend and stopping it before change overload occurs. This requires A/B testing. A/B testing compares two versions of the same variable, like employee productivity before and during introduction of a change. The comparison measures the negative outcome of lower productivity while employees adjust to the newly introduced change.

The fact remains you must collect information before, during, and after introduction of a change. Based on prior experience, you should expect that negative change outcomes end within a known time period, after successful change, where the organization returns to a new and improved state. This requires ongoing collection, analysis and reporting on negative outcomes throughout the period of change. For example, employee productivity will eventually return to the historically normal rate within two weeks after introducing the change. If the ongoing reporting begins to show a low employee productivity trend that projections indicate will not end in two weeks, you have the information necessary to slow the change and avoid an overload.

The A/B test differs, depending on what variable comparison the situation requires. For example, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, product defects, and so on. No matter the variable included in the A/B test, the results offer a way to monitor negative change outcome trends, offering quantifiable insights on how to avoid an overload.
So, the next time change creeps into your organization, like soldiers from a Trojan Horse, you now have the ingredients required for planning and preventing the hidden attack of overload.
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