Planning for and Defining Change Impact: A Quick Guide

Defining change impact – and planning for those impacts – are crucial goals during any change project.

Below, we’ll look at these topics, as well as:

  • Why it’s important to understand change impacts
  • How to account for and predict change impacts
  • Why planning can mitigate risks 

Let’s start at the beginning – what change impact means and how to define it.

Defining Change Impact 

At the outset of any project, you will likely be performing a number of analyses and assessments.

These can include:

All of these assessments can help you gauge the overall health and state of the organization. 

Most importantly, they can help you define and develop a change project roadmap. While defining that roadmap, it is critical to understand how your project will impact the organization.

Doing so can help you avoid barriers to change, prevent unforeseen obstacles, and mitigate risk.

Understanding Types of Organizational Change

The best place to start when defining change impact is with organizational change.

Knowing the type of change you are engaged in can help you understand what areas will be affected and how they will be affected.

Here are a few types of organizational change:

  • People and Culture – Workers’ daily duties, workflows, and responsibilities, as well as company-wide culture and attitudes.
  • Processes, Systems, and Practices – Procedures, production pipelines, and how things are accomplished.
  • Technology, Tools, and Infrastructure – New tools, digital technology, IT infrastructure, equipment, and so forth.
  • Structures and Hierarchies – Organizational structures, departmental hierarchies, and job roles.
  • Strategy and Tactics – The organization’s mission, its market strategy, and how it achieves its aim.

Any and all of these areas may be impacted by a change program.

What’s important to realize, though, is that a change targeting one area may also impact another area.

Here are some examples:

  • A new digital adoption program implements new technology. This can also impact individuals’ workflows, business processes, customer experiences, and more.
  • A department is restructured during an acquisition. New hierarchies can also impact a workplace culture, workflows, processes, and the employee experience.
  • An organization changes its product line as part of a strategy shift. This can result in many other changes, including internal restructuring, culture shifts, new job duties, and more.

These examples demonstrate the ripple effect of change projects.

A change project that focuses on one or two areas will inevitably impact other areas.

Planning for Change Impacts

Change management encompasses an approach to change that starts at the individual level: it drives organizational change through individual change.

There are reasons for this emphasis on individual people:

  • Individuals can propel change – or they can oppose it
  • Tools, equipment, and software don’t react to change – but people do
  • Management of people has a dramatic impact on the outcomes of change programs

In other words, all change programs impact individuals. 

And their reactions impact results.

Improve Results through Planning

To improve project results, follow these steps:

  • Discover the type of change you are undertaking. As covered above, change projects typically focus on specific areas, such as people, processes, or technology. Specify the type of change you are initiating and you will have a good starting point.
  • Define and outline potential areas of impact. Outline each area that your change project will impact, followed by the effects of those impacts, until completion. These impacts will help you define plans to mitigate negative impacts.
  • Create plans to mitigate negative impacts. Positive change impacts are those that we seek to create through our change programs. Negative impacts can detract from project outcomes.

These negative impacts are those that should be planned for and mitigated, avoided, or prevented.

Plan for Negative Impacts

They can include:

  • Obstacles – Barriers to change can include employee resistance, skills deficiencies, legacy technology, lack of budget, and more. 
  • Negative Project Outcomes – These can include loss of ROI, bad user experiences, damage to brand image, and any number of other impacts. 
  • Project Failure – In worst cases, negative impacts can derail a project completely, even after it has been completed.

Because these negative impacts can ruin organizational change projects, it is absolutely critical to plan for and mitigate them.

There are many ways to do this, depending on the nature of the change project and the potential impacts.

However, because people can pose the biggest obstacles to change, make a point to reduce negative impacts to employees, users, customers, and stakeholders.

Prevent and Reduce

Here are just a few ways to do that:

  • Develop a solid communication strategy 
  • Collect feedback constantly and use it to inform your assessments, decisions, and execution
  • Focus on building support and reducing resistance – for instance, through effective onboarding and employee training
  • Create change projects that benefit employees personally, then sell them on those benefits

Ultimately, make sure that you have a sophisticated, structured change management project.

The more effective and comprehensive your change management, the better your project outcomes will be.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.