Change Design

by David King

Blueprint models

Building models is a great way to add substance to the vision by helping others to better understand and visualise how the business will operate in its new ‘future state’. Models also enable more direct comparisons to be made with the current situation; for example, why and how is it different or what, specifically, do we need to change?

More importantly, models aid learning and ensure a common understanding of what we want – in other words, our shared ‘blueprint’ for change. If we all have a clear picture of where we want to be, it will be easier to work out how to get there!

Blueprint models are ‘soft’ models that represent a sort of ‘prototype’ (in other words, a model or simulation) of a viable and complete ‘business system’. At its simplest level, this could mean drawing models of activities or processes using flip-charts or whiteboards and coloured pens to bring them to life. Software tools are often used to create more complex models, such as process flow diagrams.

Blueprint models are intended to be quite high-level explanations of how things should work, so they should only include the minimum number of activities or processes that you would expect to see working to achieve the Vision. When building models, it is important to show how the activities/processes link together so that dependencies (both internal and external) can be fully understood.

Models enable business managers and teams to develop and explore ideas visually and interactively and can often be used to illustrate novel or radical alternative options that will stimulate creative thinking.

Seven-generic model

According to research and experience of changing organisations in practice, it is possible to define a finite set of ‘generic’ activities for any business system that involves human activity. These activities have logical links and dependencies and are often shown as a seven-generic model:

According to this generic model, every business ‘system’ should have these seven components:

  • A purpose or objective – such as specific targets or goals that will inform both the Plan and Monitoring
  • Environmental constraints – factors, such as available resources or legislation, that may constrain or determine how things work and will also inform the Plan
  • A plan or programme – needed to bring clarity of Purpose to the work that needs doing, balanced against the Environmental factors and on which People, financial and other resources can be worked out and agreed
  • People, financial and other resources – these will be driven by the Plan and their release will enable Business operations to be carried out
  • Business operations – are dependent on having a Plan and the Resources needed to do the work
  • Performance monitoring – the work carried out in the Business operation is compared to the Purpose or Objective to see how well it (the business system) is working and inform decisions about Review and control
  • Review and control – ensure that the results of Performance monitoring feed into decisions about changes that might be needed to any aspect of how things work. The jagged arrow (see below) indicates that a change could be needed in any other part of the generic business model.

How to develop a blueprint business model

Although these models may look quite complicated at first, in fact they are relatively simple to create:

  • First develop or select a vision statement to model
  • Make a simple list of all of the activities or processes that must take place for the business ‘system’ described to work
  • Place each activity in a cloud shape (see illustration)
  • Each activity must contain a verb (it is an activity after all!)
  • Always use clear, plain and descriptive language so everyone can understand what the activity means
  • Connect the cloud shapes containing activities with arrows, to show the direction of dependencies between them (in other words, what needs to happen before and what needs to happen after each activity is undertaken)
  • Show dependencies to activities or processes that are external to the business system being modelled (called ‘external entities’)
  • Remember

    This is a blueprint for the future state and is therefore used to model your ideas. Beware of ‘reality seepage’, whereby all you do is model or re-create the current situation.

    Check to ensure you have included the seven systemic components of the seven-generic model
  • Finally, test the model to see if each activity has at least one input and one output
  • Create as many different models as you need to build a complete picture of how your ‘future state’ should look and work.

Notations for blueprint models

An activity within the business model
An external entity impacting on the model
A dependency arrow between two activities (can be two-way)
A ‘mouse hole’ is used to connect dependent activities across the model
A multiple dependency to all other activities in the model (can be two-way)

Blueprint model illustration

Checklist for testing your model

  • Does the model fully reflect the vision statement? If not, you may need to revisit it. Consider writing a new vision statement or even start again and draw a new model.
  • Is the model clear and explicit – does it communicate your ideas about the ‘future state’?
  • Does the model help to identify business critical activities? This is indicated by the number of dependencies that exist with other activities in the model.
  • Has the model enabled you to generate additional or new insights into how your business could operate in the future?
  • Has the process of building the model enabled you and your key stakeholders to share a common understanding about what is needed (see below)?

Validating the model

  • Construct models with your stakeholders so that validation is integral to the process.
  • Be prepared to walk people through the models to ensure they share your understanding.
  • Also be prepared to modify your models if people offer new ideas or insights.
  • If different models overlap, consider merging them into a single (higher-level) model to aid understanding.
  • If more clarity is needed, consider developing additional or lower level models.

What next?

Now that you have created your blueprint business model, you are in great shape to fully test and validate the model with the widest group of stakeholders and interested parties in your organisation.

To do this, you need to take the model to the next level of detail by conducting a Capability analysis.