Change Management Risk Assessment – Key Reference Points and Metrics

In addition to undertaking the “soft assessment” of individual readiness for change surveys, it is necessary to undertake the “hard assessment” to assess organisational readiness for change.

There are a number of inter-related dimensions that need to be assessed, and they are as follows:

# Maturity models
# Cultural assessment
# Benefit realisation
# Impact assessment
# Project complexity

Maturity models

One of the major reference points in change management risk assessment is the maturity model. This is my personal working definition of a maturity model:

“A maturity model is a structured representation of the stages of evolution of an organisation, as it transition through various developmental states and stages, in response to the impacts of changes in the organisation’s operating environment.

This evolution represents progress to more developed or advanced states of learning, insight, understanding and practise that support its strategic goals.”

Try these initial questions:

# Do you use project management?
# Do you use programme management?
# Do you know the difference?
# Do you know why knowing the difference matters?
# What is your organisation’s business process maturity?
# What is your organisation’s change management maturity?

Then try this simple test – review the different levels listed below (based on the P3M3 project management maturity model) – firstly in relation to project management and then secondly with programme management – and then across the other areas outlined above and see which best describes your organisation:

(No need for consultants – just treat this as a quick thought experiment initially – before examining each area in more depth.)

# Level 0 – No process – the organisation has no project and /or programme management skills or experience
# Level 1 – Awareness process – the organisation is able to recognize projects and/or programmes – but has little structured approach to dealing with them.
# Level 2 – Repeatable process – there may be areas that are beginning to use standard approaches to projects and/or programmes but there is no consistency of approach across the organisation.
# Level 3 – Defined process – there will be a consistent set of standards being used across the organisation with clear process ownership.
# Level 4 – Managed process – the organisation monitors and measures its process efficiency, with active interventions to improve the way it delivers based largely on evidence or performance based information.
# Level 5 – Optimised process – the organisation will be focussing on optimisation of its quantitatively managed processes to take into account changing business needs and external factors.

Cultural assessment

Organisational culture is the single biggest determinant of how an individual will behave within a business or organisational environment. It will over-ride education, intelligence and common sense. Therefore it needs to be an integral aspect of any change management risk assessment.

All too often I have seen many senior people in large organisations, whilst under the influence of the dominant organisational culture, behave in ways that on occasions defied common sense and the “blindingly obvious”.

Culture is also a major determinant in how people will react to change and change leaders’ attempts to apply “change management” to them.

Any attempt to address organisational culture involves these 3 processes:

# Cognition – understanding fully: “what we look like – how we want to look
# Communication – providing the framework and language of change
# Change – using appropriate tools, techniques and change processes

Cultural mapping and analysis is a critical aspect of change management risk assessment.

Benefit realisation

One of the many reasons that I advocate using a programme management based approach to change is that it focuses on the realisation of benefits.

Any change initiative that does not have clearly defined benefits supported by a benefit realisation plan runs yet another significant and common risk of failure.

This is often occurs where there is a project management driven change initiative, and it occurs because the focus of change management risk assessment is on the delivery of the new capability. This frequently causes change managers to overlook the need to implement plans to ensure that the defined organisational benefits are realised.

Impact Assessment

The failure – by change leaders – to identify and take full account of the impact of a change initiative on those people who will be most impacted by it is another major reason for change failure and thus another significant component of change management risk assessment.

A thorough stakeholder mapping and analysis is a key component of the programme based approach to managing a change initiative.

However, as Pat Zigarmi and Judd Hoskstra of Blanchard’s say:”Bottom line – people who plan change rarely implement the plan.”

But there is a deeper dimension to this – people don’t want you to try to sell change to them – they want to understand it and be involved in making it happen.

They also want to be asked ‘what works; what doesn’t’. If they are asked they will provide valuable guidelines and become an integral part of the process. This is – or should be – an integral aspect of the pre-programme review and planning process

Project Complexity

For change initiatives that comprise one or more projects and that will be delivered within a project management framework, project complexity is another significant aspect of change management risk assessment.

Statistically the size of the project, the scope of project and the duration of the project all contribute to project complexity and increased risk.

Two other important perspectives are your organisations legacy with projects which will be reflected in your organisation’s level of project management maturity all of which can simply be stated as your organisational capability.

Thus there is a very need to devise or acquire an assessment tool that will enable you to assess the complexity of your change initiative in relation to your organisational capability to handle it.

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