Change management is a broad and diverse discipline with many facets.  Just like other disciplines like Finance, Marketing, Human Resources or Management, there are many sub-components.  In Finance there are sub-disciplines such as accounting, tax, budgeting, and investment.  Likewise, in Human Resources there are sub-disciplines such as employee relations, remuneration, organisational development, business partnering and learning and development.

In change management there are also various sub-disciplines such as change leadership, learning and development, change impact assessment, organisational design, communications and change portfolio management.  There are also multiple functions that all claim to have change management skills, for example Human Resources, Project Management, Strategy and Operations Management.  To read more about this topic access our infographic ‘Why lots of functions think they are all experts in managing change’.

Change impact

With so many components to grasp where does one start?  And which component is more important?  It’s easy to say that all components may be important depending on the nature and context of the change.  However, to manage change, one needs to understand what is changing.  To understand what is changing, one needs to be crystal clear on what is the change impact on various groups of stakeholders, internal or external to the organisation.  It is only after a deep understanding of the impact that it is possible to plan how the change can be managed.

Too often, generic change approaches are used such as training and communications without a detailed understanding the nature of the change to the impacted stakeholder.  The result is that the change interventions miss the mark, resulting in resistance and lack of support.

How do we understand change ‘impact’?  There are many ways to do this.

1. Perception of the change

How does the impacted stakeholder group perceive the impact of the change on him/her?  If we are implementing a new system and most of the users are very comfortable and happy with the existing system, then the perception of the new system may be one of scepticism and negativity.  This could especially the case if the ‘why’ is not established for needing to transition to a new system.

The perception of the change is about the mindsets, attitudes and expectations of people.  These are not easily quantifiable and will require deep understanding of that particular stakeholder group and the history of how they have transitioned through different changes.

The perception of the change can also be positive or negative.  Positive perceptions of change could be the result of a perception or expectation of benefit, for example the system may be easier to use, saves time or accomplishes significant tasks that are not possible with the existing system.  Negative perception could result if the benefit case is not clear, or worse, perceived to be adding more time, more complex and providing less value.

Typical ways to understand the perception of stakeholders may involve surveys, interviews and focus groups.

2. Severity of impact

Another way to assess and understand the impact of change is the severity of level of the change impact.  Is the impact such that significant investment and resources are required to undergo the change?  Such as a major restructuring exercise.  Or is the impact small as it only involves a minor process tweak and only requires emails to notify those impacted?

The severity of the impact may be measured and quantified using a Likert scale.  For example, 1 could be deemed as small impact, 3 being medium in impact, and 5 being very high in impact.

Note that if you are using a scale to rate change impact it is advisable to use a 5-point scale versus a 10-point or 3-point scale.  10-point scale is quite complex for the average person to understand and select from.  For example, how would one select between 6/10 versus 7/10 and there may not be that much material difference between the two levels of impact across change initiatives.

Likewise, a 3-point scale is too few of a scale to be of any value.  Most organisations have multiple changes going on, and all impacts of changes are forcibly categorised into one of 3 categories.  The result is that the analysis becomes too general and not sufficiently detailed to differentiate the levels of impact in any meaningful way.

3. Capacity of impact

Another way to understand the impact of change is to assess to what extent the capacity of the stakeholder is affected in order to digest and transition through the change.  For example, what effort and activities are involved for managers of a business unit to be sufficiently briefed about the new system so that they can then lead their teams through the process?  What are the learning requirements and what support is required?

If a change is more complex and requires significant effort and involvement to go through the change process, then what are these activities and how do they impact the stakeholder group?

Typical change and transition activities that could impact the capacity of the stakeholder group include:

  • Town halls or briefing sessions
  • Workshops and focus groups
  • Involvement of subject-matter-experts
  • Watching videos or reading emails about the initiative
  • Team meetings to discuss the change
  • Learning and development sessions
  • Practice and gradual familiarity required
  • Providing feedback about the change
  • Attending any celebration or other events related to the initiative

Another way to view capacity of the impacted stakeholder is to examine what else is going on during the time of the implementation of the change.  Are there are other changes or key work tasks that are notable?  For example, is the change happening during peak customer period or major annual peak work cycle such as end of financial year or audit?  If so, the capacity of the stakeholder could be greater reduced.

In fact, for most large organisations there is usually at least a few change initiatives occurring at most times.  The trick is then to work around the anticipated capacity and bandwidth challenges ahead of the game, and plan around them.  To learn how to do this, read our suite of articles on change portfolio management to learn how to manage multiple changes.

4. Time Impact

Stakeholder capacity can also be measured and quantified using time.  In fact, all aspects of change impact will have an element of time impact.  This includes all facets of mindset changes, learning the new system, digesting and understanding emails and information packs, attending the various sessions and meetings, and practicing how to operate the new system.

In this way, by quantifying the various change impacts of a particular initiative on various stakeholder groups, it is possible to estimate the time ranges of impact.  This becomes very valuable particularly for those teams that are highly time-sensitive.  These could be call centre teams.  They can also be Finance teams during month-end or year-end period where they are busy consolidating finances.  Customer complaints and resolutions teams may also be busy during end of year periods where there could be high customer volumes.

How do we put these into use?

Change impact assessment is the process of assessing and evaluating the nature of change impacts on various stakeholder groups.  By leveraging the above ways in which to assess the impact of change, change impact assessment can result in a detailed set of information from which we can then set the change approach.  It is only after we understand the ‘what’ of the change that we can then design ‘how’ we are going to transition stakeholder through the change.

The completed change impact assessment should also be socialised and verified with those impacted.  Without this verification process, it could be that those who are impacted do not agree what the change impacts captured.  Or that, there could be other impacts that are missed in the assessment.

At The Change Compass we provide a cloud-based tool in which organisations can input and visualise change impact information.  By visualising the data, we can assess any risks and opportunities in terms of:

  • Groups that may need additional support due to the complexity, volume or complexity of the change
  • Comparing different stakeholder groups to assess which ones are the most critical to the success the initiative and to what extent their capacity is impacted, in terms of time
  • Plot the change saturation points for different parts of the business and assess to what extent changes exceed these points. From this assessment, determine any risk mitigation strategies, such as re-prioritisation, providing additional resources, or change implementation timeline
  • Assess to what extent impacts (across initiatives) on different parts of the business are aligned to the strategic goals. Are the largest impacts on parts of the business as expected according to the strategy?  Is the organisation’s implementation impacts more on operational efficiency versus growth?  And does this match the strategic intent?
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