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Change Complexity Analysis


Disciplines > Change Management > Diagnosing change > Change Complexity Analysis

Task complexity | People complexity | See also


Change Complexity Analysis seeks to identify how difficult a change project will be. The more complex the project, the more carefully the project will need to be managed.

Complexity may be plotted along two axes: task complexity and people complexity. The resultant position may lead to very different approaches to managing the change.

Task complexity

Start by identifying the complexity of the task involved in the change without considering the people issues. This is

Some of the factors which affect task complexity are indicated in the table below.


Factor Description
Number of tasks The more things there are to do, the more complex managing the whole show is.
Variety of tasks If there are lots of similar tasks then similar tools, management methods, etc. may be used.
Complexity of tasks More difficult tasks require greater attention and have more ways to fail. It also makes it more difficult to verify.
Verifiability of work If you can't see what has been done then it is difficult to track progress and check that things are done right.
Number of locations Doing the job in many different places makes coordination more difficult and requires more travel.
Interdependencies between tasks When one change depends on others or can affect many things, it is more complex than when changes are independent of one another.
Time pressures When time is limited, there is no time to correct errors.
Financial constraints When money is tight, you may be limited in such as the quality of what is used.
Quality criteria When quality requirements are high, then there are more ways to get it wrong.


People complexity

The major additional complexity that change projects add over other projects is the potential problems around people. It is thus important to consider the people complexity separately from the task complexity.

Some of the factors which affect people complexity are indicated in the table below.


Factor Description
People numbers More people means more communication -- and geometrically so as potential conversations rise with the square of the numbers of people.
Diversity Different people means different languages, different cultures, different ‘political correctness’, etc.
Emotional intelligence When people are emotionally not ready for the change, then the shock of the change will make them dysfunctional for longer.
Social cohesion When people are split into many different social groups then each group may well require a different approach.
Political style If the prevailing political style is divisive and devious then change will be far more difficult.
Power balance If the balance of power must change then those that hold power are likely to fight to hold onto it.
Sponsor commitment If those who are legitimizing the change do not give their full and visible support, then people affected by the change will also be less committed.
Learning requirement When you are doing something new, it is more difficult if you are repeating a change you have done before.
Uncertainty If the change plans are uncertain and unstable then there is likely be more discomfort as well as more arguments.
Personal change If people must change beliefs, values, etc. (such as in culture change) then this is more difficult than simple change of activities.
Change skills If the people managing the change have not done this before then they may lack the ability to do this effectively.


See also

Scope of change

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