Managing change in complex environments



Advances in Project Management Series

By Jonathan Whelan

United Kingdom


Today’s technological and competitive pressure is forcing organizations to achieve greater efficiencies while meeting ever-declining price points. As customers expect more for less, organizations have to deliver better service and greater value for money year-on-year.

To survive, organizations must provide customers with great customer offerings and at the same time maintain their ability to change or reinvent themselves, and do so with agility – responding ahead of the competition is a differentiator. Increased competition fuelled by an expanding and maturing global marketplace and the penetration of technology into the home has led to rising customer expectation. To do better than just survive, organizations must offer something unique; in the industrial age a key differentiator was price, but in the information (or, arguably, knowledge) age there are many dimensions including, but certainly not limited to, customer experience, personalised customer service, responsiveness, agility and innovation. These are the dynamics that today’s organizations face.

But change has always been present and it has always been a necessity for organizations to master change if they want to excel. Many organizations respond by reorganising themselves and others by re-inventing themselves. Take, for example, 3M, a company who started out as a niche mining company and evolved into a multi $billion solution provider to customers in over 200 countries with over 55,000 product solutions.

The most successful companies adapt to embrace and exploit change; others (but not all) survive.

Increasing Competition and Globalization

The response to constant change is not a simple case of modernising or refreshing an existing product or service line. The Internet as a distribution channel has removed geographical borders and allowed even the smallest companies to compete with the largest. The Internet has shrunk the world and provided access to a global community to ramp up competition.

Addressing these dynamics is leading organizations to restructure and reorganize themselves in a more integrated fashion not just to the existing business model but to a reinvented one. At the same time organizations are extending out to third parties and offshore locations creating an ecosystem of collaborating entities. The pressure to squeeze out inefficiencies of more conventional, siloed organizations is irrepressible. Whether the silos exist as individual legal entities under the umbrella of a holdings company or as disparate local and international divisions within a single entity, organizations are focusing on developing capabilities that drive strategic differentiation. Furthermore, they are exporting capabilities from the core to the external reaches of the ecosystem where they are commoditised and/or most efficiently served.

Organizations are eliminating, rationalising, standardising and reusing common labour, products, services, processes and technology. And they have to do so against a backdrop of increasing regulation – one of the “costs of doing business” – and corporate and social responsibility.

In some cases, changing the existing organization is too hard. We saw this with the Internet boom at the start of the 21st century. “Bricks and mortar” organizations were just too slow. To compete with new market entrants, start-ups were incubated and grown alongside their “bricks and mortar” parents and either subsequently integrated or left to operate alone under a differentiated branding. This model is still likely to be necessary going forward.


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Editor’s note: The Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books published by Gower in the UK. Information about the Gower series can be found at http://www.gowerpublishing.com/advancesinprojectmanagement.


About the Author



Jonathan Whelan

United Kingdom




Jonathan Whelan is an established Business Architect who has over 25 years’ experience in a variety of change-related roles within leading organizations. In recent years his focus has been exclusively on Business Architecture and specifically the formulation of Business Architecture for global institutions.

As well as having considerable practical experience, Jonathan is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the British Computer Society. He is also TOGAF 9 certified and Zachman certified.

In his spare time, Jonathan writes on business technology issues and opportunities. A broad spectrum of businesses have benefited from his observations and a number of his papers have led to significant programmes of work within corporate organizations. He is the author of numerous books including ‘[email protected] (Financial Times Management) and ‘e-Business Matters’ (Prentice Hall). His books have received wide acclaim from government and professional organizations and senior business executives.

Jonathan is co-author of ‘Business Architecture – A Practical Guide’, by Jonathan Whelan and Graham Meaden, published by Gower (www.gowerpublishing.com/isbn/9781409438595)

The ISBN number for the printed book is 978-1-4094-3859-5 and the e-books are 978-1-4094-3860-1 and 978-1-4094-6153-1 (Kindle version).

© 2015 Jonathan Whelan