The Sum of Change AKA Multiplicity

The Sum of Change AKA Multiplicity

When Multiplicity is used to advantage it is a vital, extremely powerful and highly beneficial cog in the engine of organizational change. It increases the probability of successful change while directly improving change performance – reducing costs, minimizing delays, allocating resources for best return and so on. No matter how you approach it, managing Multiplicity well results in significant value propositions:

o Maintaining awareness of the state and context of all past, all present and all future change across the entire organization prevents waste, replication, duplication and conflict.

o Ensuring that change is fully integrated within the organization as a whole eliminates unworthy, unneeded and unsanctioned change.

o Knowing what worked, what did not, what can be reused, what should be stopped and what should be rethought ensures that change is well prepared, well advised, well managed and well done.

o Cautioning when receptivity for change or change saturation may threaten success is invaluable, sage advice; not necessarily as justification for not proceeding but as compelling arguments for selecting the wisest path to assure best results.

o Bringing clarity and cohesion to all change helps every level and every layer of the organization better understand, prepare, execute, manage and accept change.

To strengthen your appreciation of the real life negative impact of uncontrolled Multiplicity, several eye-opening, actual examples where Multiplicity was totally ignored are provided.

What is…Change?

To understand Multiplicity we need to start with a definition of Change. Here is mine: If any aspect, element, part, component or dimension of an organization in whole or in part is consciously altered or adjusted by design it is CHANGE.

I have listed a variety of types of organizational change, according to the definition. You might think that some of the examples are not organizational change; however, my definition noted “if any aspect … is altered or adjusted by design…” therefore, every one of my examples is valid.

o Revising a single script line in a localized customer service process is organizational change

o Altering image or brand is organizational change

o Adjusting governing policies and practices is organizational change

o Refining processes to improve productivity is organizational change

o Deploying new technology to simplify business is organizational change

o Developing a new product or service is organizational change

o Defining and managing a new marketing campaign is organizational change

o Acquiring to grow is organizational change

o Transferring processes to third parties is organizational change

o Consolidating or closing units to decrease costs is organizational change

o Entering partnerships to expand into new markets is organizational change

o Reframing business models is organizational change

The second one might be thought of as the exclusive purview of marketing or corporate communications, it probably is in terms of concept and creation; however, collateral, scripts, etc. must change throughout the organization.

The sixth example – developing a new product – might not seem like organizational change; however, many parts of the organization must change, alter or adapt to market, sell, install, service, etc. the product.

Change can be carefully planned or uncontrollably reactive; competitive or defensive; strategic or tactical; simply stepping up to meet operational challenges or market opportunities implies organizational change. Leaders contemplate future change; assessing new or evolving threats and possibilities, planning and leading change. Significant energy is spent ensuring decisions about change are timely and as informed as possible.

Change holds remarkable promise at conception. When change is contemplated, it is from a singular perspective – a potentially dangerous misconception. The status quo (to be changed) landscape is viewed as fixed in time and space – a fundamental flaw, full of risk. The what will be (after the change) landscape is imagined from the singular perspective of the reason for change; still fixed in time and space, in the future – a probable cause of disaster.

At any moment in time; every organization will be in the throes of change to a greater or lesser degree. Strategic change initiatives; one, several, tens or even hundreds vie for resources, time and attention – concurrently striving to address defensive, offensive, expansion, growth, contraction and improvement pressures.

Tactical change is virtually constant; business divisions, departments, sections even individuals refine and tune how they work – mainly in reactive mode to fix deficiencies or to meet targets.

Capturing the full width and depth of Change…

For your organization; cast your mind across change that has occurred or completed, change that may occur; change that will occur and change that is occurring even as you absorb this material – this is the sum of change, this is Multiplicity.

The distinctions of each of these four stages of change and the unique opportunities for extracting the incremental value that lies within each will become clear. Remember to consider the entire width of your organization while delving into its depths as you reflect on:

o All change initiatives mandated by new policies, regulations or events, internally or externally generated.

o Every change initiative to improve speed, choice, functionality, service channels, quality, etc.

o All change initiatives that pursue corporate objectives of size, profitability, scale, synergy and new markets.

o Every small or localized tactical change intended to address a non-strategic problem or opportunity.

o All other types of change you foresee or know about…

The latent value of Change…

I use the term “latent” because there is incredible, incremental value waiting to be extracted from every change initiative; well beyond the bottom line contributions, profitability and performance improvements stated in the business case or rationale used to justify each and every change initiative.

Consider your organization; think about every strategic and tactical change initiative that has occurred over the last few years. Incidentally, any and all change initiatives that were stopped, canceled or aborted should be included as well. No matter how large or small; the number, size and scope of completed change initiatives provide a veritable treasure chest of significant incremental value for all future change. When Multiplicity is managed effectively it opens up all types of possibilities.


…understanding, locating and extracting incremental value from money or effort already spent…

Do you have any inkling of the reusability potential of completed change in your organization?

Every organization should establish a mandatory regimen to capture, analyze and use the incremental value inherent in change. It is not difficult to establish, the value proposition is sublime.

Here is a real life example of what happens when this is not in place:

A global financial institution headquartered in Toronto, Canada had less than 50 types of customer accounts but was surprised to find it had over 1300 account opening processes worldwide, each developed with painstaking precision and accuracy at an estimated, fully burdened cost of at least $2,500,000 each with several hundred costing many times more.

Over 900 of the 1300 had a possible reusable factor of 30%; meaning 30% of the cost and/or effort associated with every one of the 900 may have been avoidable since they were either mutations or direct duplicates of software, processes or collateral elsewhere in the enterprise.

This outfit wasted as much as $675,000,000 because reusability knowledge relating to past, present and future change was absent. This is the wasted reuse potential of just one process family; just imagine the possibilities in hundreds or thousands of process families. I will not raise the specter of who should be held accountable for potentially billions of wasted dollars, what matters is that the organization wastes time; money and resources – time and time again.

Clearly, the organization in this example has many problems across the gamut of change management. I chose to isolate the reusability aspect as a highly appropriate example; Multiplicity’s full benefits, as captioned in the bullet statements earlier in this paper, would do much to set this organization on the right course, not just for the process family noted but for all change.

Getting back to the subject of reusability, unfortunately it is an anathema to many – egos, politics, optics, power struggles, not-in-my-backyard objections, budget expansion and control are some of the many reasons why sane, honest and well intentioned people ignore a virtual treasure trove that can save money, shorten timeline and conserve valuable resources.

Every change initiative generates knowledge, products, artifacts and components; in other words reusable value, irrespective of whether the change initiative was successful or failed abysmally.

Give some thought to the potential that lies within completed change in your organization. Think about just how much might be reusable to save you time, money and resources dealing with change; in the future, across the wide spectrum of process maps, process flows, infrastructure, excess capacity, scripts, software, test beds, skills, knowledge, training, education, communications materials, legal briefs, culture shift learning, resistance to change, change receptivity, change saturation, etc, etc.

How much do you think might be lying out there, unused and latent? I do not expect you to find millions or even billions on the first pass; however, I hope you see the very real potential.

As you start to ask and inquire about reusability in your organization you may be surprised to find that obfuscation, obstruction and objection spring up out of nowhere. Depending on the culture in your organization there may be a propensity to spend money and time defending why reusability is unworkable, impossible, etc.

Before moving on from reusability there is an important aspect that deserves special attention; consider cases where change initiatives include products, services, subject matter expertise or knowledge acquired from external sources such as vendors, integrators, service providers, etc.

In virtually every case requiring contributions from external sources it is dealt with as a one-time event – a fundamental flaw in change planning, execution and procurement. In these cases the external party often nullifies the potential advantages of reuse of their contributions through restrictive covenants on transferability, copying, number of users, number of licenses, geographic boundaries and more.

In future; for every change initiative that comes across your desk for review or approval, specifically ask about reuse relative to the external parties involved in the project – insist and enforce that no future business will flow to external parties who restrict reuse. If they argue, find more flexible suppliers; if they are amenable help them to craft a win-win business model that accommodates reuse.

I hope that my comments have built a case for the considerable reusability benefits of Multiplicity; additionally, there are other, equally valuable dimensions that you can take advantage of.


…maximizing the probability of success while minimizing the prospect of failure…

Let’s look at “probable” and “planned” change to explore additional value hidden in Multiplicity. In the case of “probable” change it is not important how firm your change concepts are; in fact, organizations that really, really stretch their imaginations are those that seem to have a higher change success rate (something else to ponder…).

Contemplate how simulation would assist you in considering future or “probable” change; do remember that Multiplicity is not used to assess the rationale or reasoning for change, it provides reality, practicality and achievability checks:

Simulating Probable Change:

Multiplicity, the sum of organizational change, is the perfect source for data to model the status quo or “what is” state; then simulate the change or “what will be” state in order to understand the stretch, reach and value of the change along with attendant issues and risks.

In many cases, large scale change can be handled well with better results if it is segmented into waves; where each wave of change is manageable yet delivers results, with each subsequent wave building on the success of the last. A particular aspect of Multiplicity’s simulation value is the manipulation and testing of “waves of change” the organization must pass through to get to the new state – thus avoiding committing resources, time or money to a lost cause.

More importantly, it allows views of every change underway, planned or contemplated – too often change is conceived in isolation from reality; simulation ensures that probable change is related to all other change across the organization, bringing clarity and cohesion while providing reality checks.

Full comprehension of the extent of change required across the width and depth of the organization are keys to understanding the likelihood of success, the probabilities of meeting objectives and the realities of costs, time and resources necessary to achieve the goals.

You will avoid surprises, save money, conserve resources and be more confident of success if every concept is modeled early; before hordes of staff, hungry vendors and opinionated stakeholders start to meld the concept to their own designs.

Change Planning

Multiplicity can elevate the quality, accuracy and certainty of change planning to new heights. It interlocks and ensures key facets are correctly represented during the planning processes when value, benefit, resources, costs, risks, timings and associated matters are defined, argued and organized into plans and compelling propositions. There are three major categories where substantial value can be brought to bear on change planning:

Change Performance:

Your completed change that we spoke of earlier holds immensely valuable knowledge; it is possible to assess how all or similar change worked before; where it was bad, where it was good, what worked and what failed.

o You will save through reusability because you can plan to extract appropriate components, materials and knowledge from previous change and use it to cut costs, shorten timelines and conserve valuable resources.

o You will increase the prospect for success by learning from previous change – good and bad – and ensure that plans maximize and utilize the value learned while omitting the bad.

o You can extract valuable metrics and measures from previous change, good and/or bad, and enshrine these as pre-established performance bonds or guarantees on future change, particularly when external parties are involved.

Change Underway:

In the section on simulation of probable change I mentioned that; too often each change initiative is regarded as insular or singular with a precise objective – the problem is; if you aim a rocket at the moon it will miss by a billion miles (see my article: Shooting at the Moon Again); things move and things change as time passes.

o You would be able to examine the implications of all other change underway that would be impacted by this planned change. A great metaphor we like to use is the famous “Whose on first” routine of Abbott and Costello. Waste, conflict and receptivity issues can be pre-empted by cogent and wise change planning; especially in the areas of sequence, size, time to absorb and optimization.

o When you are involved in detailed planning for change you need to assess and analyze the value, cost, need and priority of all other change. By this we particularly mean other change that is destined to alter or adjust the same parts of the organization as the change you are currently planning. It is often the perfect opportunity to step back, consider and issue directives to adjust, refine focus or perhaps say… “Stop”.

Change Saturation & Receptivity:

Receiving unit receptivity is a common source of change failure. It is the inability of the unit or units to learn, absorb, integrate and inculcate the resultant new way of doing business into the operating fabric of the organization in a timely, productive fashion.

Incidentally; this is not the fault of the units or people therein, it is the fault of those tasked with the leadership of change or project management.

Earlier we pointed out that you have the ability to understand what worked and what didn’t. Taking this extremely valuable knowledge further you can define and determine corporate approaches that become the standard for injecting change.

If you know of receptivity issues ahead of time and know how to boost or alter them you have an important edge, a key for success.

Change saturation is equally damaging – too often a change is impelled or compelled with good reason yet is not rationalized against change just past, or presently underway or coming shortly – all being injected into the very same environment, sometimes even concurrently; the impacts and issues should be obvious…

Multiplicity contributes in many ways to change simulation and planning – you will know what to avoid, what works, what to expect, what will save time, money and resources and what will need special attention.

Here is a real life example of negative impact when the change planning aspects of Multiplicity are ignored:

A New Jersey based Enterprise Telecommunications Company used an outdated version of an application, heavily customized, in its US domestic operations.

The CFO ordered a roll-out of the next version of the application to the rest of the world (vanilla – no customization permitted) with the order that all processes and practices around the world (except the US) were to be changed to fit this new application. Previously all international regions had home grown, customized systems with subtleties and features keyed to the needs of their environment. The US was to keep using the original version until the international business was on-stream.

Chaos ensued globally; customers departed in droves, service levels plummeted, costs skyrocketed; process disconnects multiplied, language and culture impacts compounded; internal dissent at all levels became extreme… For reasons that escape me – the CFO concluded this was ‘on-stream’ and blithely ordered US operations to use the new version; the US refused, point blank, to accept the new application without radical customization.

Quite a conundrum; without customization the company may not survive in a key market (US); with customization all international regions will have to change yet again…

Cohesion, clarity and practicality of change planning were absent, wasting countless millions of dollars.


…knowing who does what to what and to whom, in what order, when and why…

To summarize; so far we have dealt with change as an entity – completed change, probable change and planned change – and have shown there are always potential opportunities to remove duplication, avoid replication, allocate resources efficiently AND shorten timelines across all change initiatives.

Now we examine the value propositions of Multiplicity that exist within the major contributors to change; by this we mean organizational units or accountabilities.

o Change Agent, Sponsor, Client…

The person or unit that holds the authority and budget (usually) for the change. You know the qualities, competencies or accountabilities that led to allocating this and other change initiative to this change agent. You know the structure, power, need, ego or political influences that came to mind.

Irrespective of rationale; Multiplicity forces questions;

o Are all initiatives led by this change agent tightly interlocked and interrelated?

o Are they aligned and/or prioritized according to the overall organizational change universe or are they personalized and individualized to the change agent?

o Who examines and determines opportunities to save time, money and resources by removing replication or reusing artifacts across initiatives?

Multiplicity also pays dividends in many dimensions – top down, sideways, upwards, outwards, inwards… For example, change agents can assess what other change agents are conceiving, planning or doing across the organization – in the context of any common receiving units as well as well beyond.

By understanding what change is occurring elsewhere and why, by sharing how and when it is only natural to find many opportunities of commonality that can be used to advantage – saving money and time while conserving valuable resources and learning.

These opportunities are actually precursors to reusability! If several change agents are running multiple change initiatives and commonality opportunities arise during construction…

o Receiving Unit or Units…

The organizational entities or individuals destined to receive and use or be replaced by the outcomes and deliverables of the change. Planning and execution of change is a delicate balance, driving forward to the end objective while managing co-ordination, injection or implementation timing and cohesion issues.

Pay attention to the environment and morale within receiving units, issues can snowball quickly and painfully because of the ripple effect where the products or deliverables of one change cancel, dilute or cripple the products of another.

By involving receiving unit management in the understanding and interlocking of Multiplicity you can assuage fears of a never ending cycle of retrofits or corrections? These are particularly relevant to business units where localized, tactical change is proceeding in concert with or in spite of strategic change.

Additionally, receiving units can view the scope and range of impending or probable change they need to plan for and accommodate. They can raise awareness of receptivity, saturation or other impedimenta. They can align and energize commitment and momentum. They can reach out to other receiving units to benefit from relevant experiences and lessons.

o Change Contributors…

Many individuals or units contribute time, energy, components and knowledge to make change happen. These are usually managed through existing project and/or change management methodologies and mechanisms.

Clarity and cohesion of change across and between contributors is rarely tackled – a large source of untapped value, such as finding excess capacity, equivalent capability or knowledge repositories elsewhere across the organization that can fill the need, saving time, money and resources.

Here is a real, almost unbelievable example of what happens when contributor change clarity and cohesion is absent.

A global footwear company has suffered through a $500 Million global ERP implementation underway for over five years with virtually no bottom line contribution.

It still needs hundreds of millions and more years to complete AND it is simply laid on top of the enterprise with no process integration or re-engineering costs or benefits, yet!

Oh, by the way, it cost $100 Million in lost sales and the stock went down by 20%. Goodness knows what the eventual cost will be and when ROI goals will be met.

A commitment to managing Multiplicity would have brought sanity to this before it started, segmenting the effort into manageable chunks, ensuring technology and processes were integrated for value and quick victories, a stepped progression toward the global objective.


As you master Multiplicity you will find it invaluable as a decision support tool and management guide – it is not a litmus test for the rightness and relevance of change, it ensures value extraction and risk mitigation as change progresses, across the organization.

Now vitally important data – what was, what is and what will be for any and all instances, for any and all change agents, for any and all receiving units, for any and all contributors, etc. spans the past, the present and the future. Analysis based on time or separated by time can be a powerful weapon, able to extract Multiplicity’s latent benefits.

Finally, business cases and accounting structures tend to deal with change in isolation – straight line, if you will. This next sentence may be confusing but if you can follow it, you will be on the road to being a change master…

If a Change initiative costs millions and millions of dollars with a ROI of several years or more yet the environment where that Change was injected Changes six months later because of more Change and Changes the precept for the original Change any pretext of being able to measure the results and value of the original Change is false.

This paper demonstrates that Multiplicity has many benefits and that it is possible to derive incremental value; thereby creating opportunities to save considerable time, significant money and scarce resources. If you have qualms or questions please let me know.