Change Management Risk Assessment – The 2 Key Parameters

The two parameters of any change management risk assessment are firstly a change legacy assessment; followed by a present assessment.

Legacy assessment

It is absolute nonsense to contemplate – let alone commence – a change initiative without serious reference to your organisations’ history of attempting change.

Staggeringly, so many companies – especially in North America – do just that and rush into their next change initiative without debriefing and without conducting a change management risk assessment – and specifically without assessing what did and didn’t work last time, and why.

You need to get that knowledge and insight now, right up front as it can help you repeating past mistakes and failing with this your current initiative.

Your organisations’ “change readiness” is best indicated by your organisations’ legacy of change initiatives (both those that worked and those that didn’t work) as it provides an important early indicator of what lies ahead.

You also need to look at the scars left by successful as well as unsuccessful initiatives as it is crucial to understand and address the scar tissue left by previous initiatives.

Present assessment

There are 2 aspects to a “present assessment”: organisational readiness and individual readiness for change.

In this article we are going to focus on the people aspect, as individual readiness for change is more complex than it may appear:

# Who will be assessed for change readiness

# When will they be assessed?

# How will they be assessed and by what criteria?

These questions are addressed by considering the “6 Stages of Concern” which have been identified by Pat Zigarmi and Judd Hoskstra who are organisational change experts and co-authors of Ken Blanchard Companies “Leading People Through Change” programme.

They have co-authored an excellent article: “Leadership strategies for making change stick” that is based around the results and findings of a major study conducted by Blanchard in 2008 with over 900 training and HR leaders as to how they approach change.

They emphasise the need for change leadership’s involvement with people at all levels – in other words engaging with, and working through, the informal networks and the informal organisation. And it is their conclusion that for change to “stick”, you, as change leader, have to anticipate, un-cover and address the various layers and levels of concerns as and when they arise, and these have been identified as 6 stages of concerns:

(1) Information concerns – what is the change and why is it needed?

(2) Personal concerns – how will the change affect me personally and will I win or lose?

(3) Implementation concerns – what do I do first and how do I manage all the details?

(4) Impact concerns – is the effort worth it and is the change making a difference?

(5) Collaboration concerns – who else should be involved and how do we spread the word?

(6) Refinement concerns – how can we make the change even better?

A further dimension to be considered in any form of individual change readiness assessment is the “readiness for change gap” that exists between management and non-management employees.

Simply put, the less power and formal influence an employee has the less informed they will be and the greater their range of concerns. Research conducted by Jim Walters Jim Walters, director of customer relations for Rochester Public Utilities, showed that (in the utility sector) there were 3 main gaps between management and non management employees:

(1) Management employees are less ready for change than non-management employees.

(2) A significant difference exists between management and non-management employees’ task and impact related concerns for change.

(3) Management employees feel significantly more empowered than non-management employees.

So individual assessments of change readiness need to take full account of these identified stages of concern and the likely different perspectives and emphases of non-management employees compared with management employees – and all of this in the full context of the change legacy and scar tissue left from previous attempts at change management.

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