The Square Root of Change

Published by Jacob Olson

Change can be difficult, and usually when an organization undergoes change things get worse before they get better. I recently heard this phenomenon described as the “square root of change” – and I think it’s something that project sponsors and project managers too often neglect.

The Prosci® methodology tells us an organization changes when its people complete their own process of moving from a current state through a transition to a future state. But from an operations perspective, things are not always that linear. The typical justification for undertaking organizational change is to increase efficiency and productivity. Unfortunately, to accomplish that goal, productivity inevitably suffers – temporarily.

You can think of this dip in productivity as the square root of change, and use the graphic below when setting expectations with project teams and leadership. Staff will need time to prepare for and implement a change, and they will also need time to adjust to and accept the change. Only after its people have moved through their transition will an organization begin to see the benefits of any change initiatives.