MOST POPULAR CHANGE RISKS
& BEST CHANGE MANAGEMENT RISK ASSESSMENTS TO PERFORM
Change Management Risks and Everything You Need to Know for Resolving These Change Risks
This guide provides you with a complete step-by-step overview of the most popular types of change management risks that will impact your project. It also outlines how you can perform the best change risk analysis to mitigate these risks.
Don’t miss the free change management risk assessment matrix template referenced in the sections below that you can use for your project.
Before doing a deep dive into how to best conduct an effective risk assessment for change management, as well as reviewing the most popular types of change risks that will impact you, let us first discuss how you can assess and identify hidden and obvious risks that are most relevant to you and your organization.
What is a Change Risk Assessment? Why is it Important, and Do You Need a Risk Analysis Matrix?
Change management risk assessment and management is the process involved in analyzing, identifying, understanding, managing, and reporting on the risks that a change management program, business initiative, or project will face throughout the lifecycle of the change implementation.
As a Senior Change Management Lead, I have delivered large-scale change programs that impacted thousands of employees and stakeholders across Citigroup, Intel, HSBC, the Federal Reserve Bank, Apple, Cisco, and other firms. Throughout my tenure as a Change Manager, I have identified key change management risks that can derail business initiatives and change programs across any organization – if they are not effectively resolved or mitigated.
– Ogbe Airiodion (Sr. Change Management Lead)
Every change management program is unique. As such, it is important to conduct a change management risk analysis using a chart, matrix, or template. This will allow you to quickly plot and identify those change risks associated with change management that can derail your change management program, and then develop plans to minimize these risks and keep them from becoming a reality.
Risk assessment in change management involves using a change management risk assessment matrix to conduct a set of assessments to identify whether a change program has a Low, Mid, or High risk.
Contact us if you have any general questions about change management, or if you have any feedback about the change management risk assessment template referenced in the sections below.
Do you have any feedback or questions about this change risk assessment template and guide article? If so, contact us. We’ll be happy to hear from you.
Table of Contents
- Change Risk Definition
- What Are the Risks Involved in Change Management (Common Change Management Risks)?
- How Do You Identify Change Management Risks?
- Importance of Change Management Assessments to Identify Risks
- Conducting an Effective Change and Project Risk Assessment
- Organizational Change Management Risks Matrix Chart
- Risk Assessment Using a Change Management Risk Matrix
- The Position on the Change Risk Chart Will Drive the Scale of Your OCM Plans
Change Risk Definition
What is a change risk? A change risk is the probability that a change program will not reach its stated objectives and goals. There is a wide range of factors that will increase the change risk for a project, and so it is important to conduct an effective risk change assessment to understand, document, and reduce these change risks.
According to a study by Gartner, 50% of change management projects are a clear failure, and only 34% are a clear success. The remainder have mixed results. This illustrates how not properly identifying and addressing change risk is a major problem that keeps many organizational change projects from achieving the desired results.
In addition to this change risk definition section, the sections below provide a detailed overview of the various risk changes that can impact your program or increase the overall change risk for your project.
Do you have any feedback or questions about this risk and change management guide? If so, contact us. We’ll be happy to hear from you.
What Are the Risks Involved in Change Management? What are the Most Common Change Management Risks?
One of the most common change risks associated with change management is that the change program will run into severe resistance with end-users, impacted groups, and even managers resisting the change.
Resistance to change is one of the most observed types of change risks.
There have been situations where an entire department or a large number of employees revolted against their senior leaders because they didn’t buy into, or agree with changes mandated by these leaders. It recently happened to Mark Zuckerberg when Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout to protest some company mandates. This is just one example of the risks involved in change management.
What are other risks involved in change management? Other common change management risk examples that can impact your project include:
- High levels of resistance
- Lack of awareness or desire to support the change
- Lack of stakeholder commitment
- Lack of mid-level and group leadership support
- Budgeting risk for the entire project
- Inadequate number of project managers, SMEs, and supporting talents
- Employees are already overburdened with too much change
- Lack of a structured governance
- Discord between the change management team and the project team
- Ambiguity about project milestones
- Lack of a strategic communication plan
- Change management resources are not given a place at the table: in order words, project sponsors and program leads are not placing much value on change management deliverables. This then leads to reduced change management support which subsequently hurts change adoption and enablement.
- and many more…
Do you have an example of a change management risk that you believe should be included in the list of change risks above, that other change management practitioners can leverage? If so, send us a message. For your subject line, enter: “Additional Examples of Change Management Risks.”
How Do You Identify Change Management Risks?
Change practitioners and project managers often ask about the best ways to identify risk in change management.
The best way to identify your project’s risk of change implementation will involve conducting one or more change assessments. Your first step will be to assess the project – read more here: Complete Guide to Project Assessments | What You Need to Know. In addition, we recommend that you also conduct organizational readiness assessments to understand how ready an organization is for the change.
Note: You can download our free Change Management Strategy (OCM Strategic Playbook), which includes a change management risk assessment matrix slide that you can re-purpose for your needs, including presenting the risks associated with change management to your management team and key stakeholders.
You’ll also want to consider conducting change impact assessments – the higher the impacts, the higher the risk. And don’t forget about conducting stakeholder assessments – this will be key to understanding the risk from the impacted users’ and leaders’ perspectives.
In total, the results from these change assessments will allow you to better understand the overall risk of change involved in your change program.
Illustration – Change Impact Analytics Dashboard
Do you have more questions about “what are the risks involved in change management?” Or do you have any general questions or feedback about this change risk management guide? Send us a message, we’ll love to hear from you.
Importance of Change Management Assessments to Identify Risks
If you haven’t performed any of the change management assessments referenced in the section above, then I strongly recommend that you do so as part of driving an effective organizational change management program for your company.
Over the last decade in my role as a Senior Change Management Lead, understanding the risk for a program has allowed me to effectively develop change risk mitigation plans to quickly reduce resistance and overall risk to change management activities. Not understanding your change risk is similar to having blinders on.
Change management risk and impact assessments are directly connected. From your change impact assessment, you can easily identify the severity and scale of impact to groups, processes, and tools.
The higher the impacts, the higher the risks to the change management program. Similarly, your stakeholder assessment will support your change management risk assessment. If the project’s stakeholders do not feel their voice is being heard, or if they are not supporting the change, then you will have a much higher change risk.
Conducting an Effective Change and Project Risk Assessment
At the early stages of a project, it is essential for change practitioners or project leads to document the risks that the organization will face during this change. Part of this change risk assessment will involve identifying any known trouble spots or potential areas for resistance.
This section above provides an overview of the types of change assessments that will provide input for your change management risk analysis.
When you are done with your change management and project risk assessment, you should create a 4×4 risk and readiness chart based on the findings from your change management risk analysis. See below for additional information, as well as the link to a change management risk assessment 4×4 matrix slide.
Do you have change management risks examples that should be included in this guide? If so, contact us.
Organizational Change Management Risks Matrix Chart
When developing your change management strategy, make sure to include a change management risk chart like the one illustrated below to provide program leadership with an understanding of the implementation risk for the program.
Note: You can download our free Change Management Strategy (OCM Strategic Playbook), which includes a change risk assessment template, chart, and matrix slide that you can re-purpose for your needs.
As recommended in the sections above, don’t forget to conduct an organizational readiness assessment of impacted groups. Why is this important and how does it impact your change risk analysis?
A business readiness analysis is important because if impacted groups and departments are ready and receptive to a change, then the implementation will have a lower change risk. But if impacted groups are not ready for the change, then there is potential for increased resistance and a higher risk to change management deliverables.
Also, as mentioned above, the more severely a change will impact individuals, the higher the risk that the change program will run into resistance.
Do you have questions about this risk assessment for change management guide? If so, contact us.
Risk Assessment Using a Change Management Risk Matrix
The very process of completing your change risk assessment is actually a simple process. The heavy lifting will happen when you are conducting your change impact assessments, change readiness analysis, stakeholder assessments, and other change management reviews.
The output from this batch of assessments will be leveraged for determining the position of your change program’s risk on the risk chart below.
Whenever we speak about risk in change management, change risk analysis, or a change management risk matrix, it all comes down to where your change risk will be placed on the risk assessment chart below.
The X-axis of the 4×4 Risk & Readiness chart below plots how ready and receptive the groups or organization is for a change. The Y-axis plots the severity of the change impacts. This 4×4 structure is a critical visual representation of a change management risk analysis.
If your change program has a low impact and is being rolled out to a group that is very receptive to the change, then your change management will have a Low-Risk Implementation. But if the change has major impacts and if it is being implemented to an organization that is not receptive to the change, then your change program will have a High-Risk Implementation score which will require an extensive level of change management risk mitigation activities.
In our change management risk assessment example below, the change risk is a High Risk, which is why the star has been placed on the bottom right quadrant on the 4×4 risk chart.
Program and Readiness Risk Chart (Illustration)
This risk and change management review guide aims to cover everything you need to know about conducting the best levels of assessments to managing risks in change management. However, if you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.
The Position on the Change Risk Chart Will Drive the Scale of Your OCM Plans
Where your program is on this risk chart will determine the type and scale of organizational change management (OCM) plans that will be needed.
An implementation that is “high risk” will require an extensive change management risk mitigation plan, which will involve broader change management. For example, your communication should be more frequent and you should use different communication channels (emails, newsletters, 3×5 leadership reports, FAQ pages, and blogs).
You will also want to implement a more extensive engagement outreach to reduce the higher organizational change management risks by using a multi-prong approach involving roadshows, town halls, 1-on-1 meetings, group meetings, video, podcast, open forums, and workshops to ensure that you are increasing end-user acceptance and willing to support the change.
Assess change risk and address it head-on using engagement outreach and other change management techniques.
You should communicate your change risk assessment to the primary project sponsor and project teams, and use this information to determine what special change tactics will be required from the project teams. In addition, senior leaders will be interested in learning about the findings from your change management risk analysis.
As mentioned above, your change and project risk matrix will be an output of the organizational readiness assessments, change impact assessments, stakeholder audience analysis, and resistance management assessment that you have performed or need to perform:
- Change Impact Assessments
- Organizational Readiness Assessment
- Resistance Management Planning
- Stakeholder Analysis
- Program Assessment
Risk assessment in change management involves a set of assessments that are conducted to identify whether a change program has a Low, Mid or High risk. Examples of risks in a change management implementation include experiencing a much higher resistance to the change, a general lack of awareness and desire to support the change, and low leadership support. A change risk matrix is a 4x4 chart that plots the severity of the impacts of a change against employees' receptiveness to the change. You draft a 4x4 risk matrix, and on the X-axis you specify how ready and receptive the groups are for a change. On the Y-axis you plot the severity of the change impacts. Read more above.
What is risk assessment in change management?
What are the risks in change management?
What is risk management matrix?
How do you write a risk assessment matrix?
Risk assessment in change management involves a set of assessments that are conducted to identify whether a change program has a Low, Mid or High risk.
Examples of risks in a change management implementation include experiencing a much higher resistance to the change, a general lack of awareness and desire to support the change, and low leadership support.
A change risk matrix is a 4x4 chart that plots the severity of the impacts of a change against employees' receptiveness to the change.
You draft a 4x4 risk matrix, and on the X-axis you specify how ready and receptive the groups are for a change. On the Y-axis you plot the severity of the change impacts. Read more above.
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Authors: Ogbe Airiodion (Senior Change Management Lead) and Francesca Crolley (AGS Cloud Content Producer)
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