Sustained levels of employee commitment, along with visible changes to behavior, is the ultimate goal for implementing change; any type of change. Barriers to commitment and behavior change are the risks of a change project, and the only true way to know if you are heading towards success is tracking these change management risks.
Using data to understand why ongoing change management risk assessment is important
Undertaking a risk assessment at the beginning of a change project only provides the implementation team with a portion of the picture. Without understanding how the risk profile is changing through implementation, the team has no way to clearly predict what the end result will be, nor be able to actively manage the change management risks.
Analyzing the data we have collected over the last 10 years, we have found trends in how risks evolve over the change lifecycle, and how this relates to employee commitment levels.
As discussed last week, we identified a number of interesting, consistent, trends:
- As a change management initiative is communicated, commitment levels are fairly high
- There is a clear dip in commitment levels in the early stages of a project
- Commitment levels steadily rise as the project moves towards completion
- Risk levels increase in the early stages and fall as the project moves towards completion
- Just a small drop in risk level in some of the risk dimensions can bring about a substantial shift in commitment levels (shown in the figure below).
Note the majority of our data comes from projects that are using our structured change-management approach. Our People-Centred Implementation methodology (PCI®) is the major framework used and was rated by Forrester Research as one of the most used change management methodologies in the world in a Vendor Landscape report (February 2016). Risks were tracked and mitigating and/or corrective actions taken where necessary.
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Applying this to your change management projects
In practical terms this means that your change team needs to track risks through the full project lifecycle.
For longer, larger, changes this could be through a full risk assessment at planned points in the lifecycle. For smaller or agile projects this could be through regular pulse surveys focused on a specific subset of risk dimensions.
Without having visibility on how the risk profile of a specific project is evolving, the team is at risk of focusing their attention on the wrong actions and missing opportunities to remove significant barriers to commitment.
The data also shows the areas which seem important for employee commitment:
- Future State Vision: As your organization moves through the change cycle it is important they can clearly understand where the change is taking them. As the change matures, the future state needs to become less ambiguous and more tangible.
- Solution Visibility: Communication of clear plans, milestones and objectives gives employees a sense of how the future state will be achieved.
- Sponsor Behavior: Having visible and consistent senior manager support of the change, employees need to see that senior leaders are providing active direction and support during change initiative.
- Local Manager’s Support: Similar to Sponsor Behavior, direct line managers need to be seen to be providing active support and direction during the change. As there is a daily impact to the local teams, local manager support may even be more important than strong sponsorship.
- Solution Viability: If your employees have a clear picture of the solution, and feel it is a feasible and viable future, they will more likely commit to the change.
- Personal Imperative: Each individual needs to understand why they cannot continue to work in the same way.
Undertaking an initial legacy assessment, and tracking that baseline through the change project with a regular risk assessment will allow your team to address the most significant barriers to commitment.
Taking lessons from past change initiatives, via our data, your change teams can pre-empt some of the key risk areas in their planning, and also have a sense of how commitment levels should be expected to shift – if they are taking appropriate actions throughout the project lifecycle.
More about change management risk assessments
We advocate the use of a structured, repeatable, change management risk assessment: the Initiative Risk Assessment, for all change initiatives. This specific change management risk assessment takes a measure against 6 critical success factors (CSFs) and 20 specific people change risk dimensions. Used regularly throughout the change management project lifecycle, and using the Initiative Legacy Assessment as your baseline, the approach allows your change management workstream to be proactively reviewing and mitigating new risks as they occur.
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Over the last 10 years we have captured the insight from more than 45,000 people and over 700,000 data points about change projects through our online tools. This data provides information and insights into understanding what really makes change management initiatives successful.
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Put data at the heart of your change projects
If data on change risks is key for your organization, you may be interested in using a change management tool to track your change projects in real time, with the right data.
Roadmap Pro is our digital change management solution that provides a proven approach to change implementation that is easy to learn, adopt and scale across your organization in a standardized and cost-effective way.