Unlocking the secrets to Impact AssessmentsJul 09, 2023
The Impact Assessment is probably the most well-known Change Management tool in existence. It has freaked out many a newbie and tripped up many a seasoned Changie but I’m here to say: it’s not as hard, complex or scary as you think it is. Let me unlock my secrets to completing Impact Assessments easily, effortlessly, and enjoyably.
It’s a process, not a test
You can’t get an Impact Assessment right or wrong. Because it’s there to help guide your thinking and approach to the change, not as a set-in-stone detail of the change itself. Your Impact Assessment isn’t meant to be handed in like an exam paper - no one is going to review it, except maybe your Change Manager, Lead or Director if you’re a junior learning on the job and they want to give you feedback. Some people think the Sponsor or Project Manager needs to sign off on the Impact Assessment, but I’d say: focus them on signing off on the Change Plan that uses the Impact Assessment as an input. That’s what’s actually going to add the value in the change, not the data gathering stage.
Limit who sees the Impact Assessment
You do not need to show your Sponsor, your Project Manager, or your stakeholders. In fact, it’s usually better if you don’t! I think of the Impact Assessment as a tool for me to use to understand the change. It's not a presenting document - it’s a behind-the-scenes one. It’s for gathering data, not presenting to stakeholders (and trust me: most people don’t want to pore through lines and lines of an Excel spreadsheet - I share more about how differently personality types take in information in my Leading Successful Change program). You can present high level change risks or high level change impacts, but seriously - avoid showing anyone the detailed Impact Assessment unless they’re a Changie working on the change with you.
Do it at the right time
You often need to have enough detail about a change in order to make completing the detailed Impact Assessment worthwhile. So if it’s a rare case when you are joining a transformation or project really early on when it’s still in the discovery, research, proposal, or viability stage (as often happens for external Change Management Consultants rather than internal Change Managers), you might hold off on the Impact Assessment until there’s more detail of what’s actually going to be delivered. Again - focus on high level change risks or impacts until more clarity about the solution is available.
Do it once, update it only if required
I'll have conversations with my stakeholders then complete the Impact Assessment on my own (or run a workshop if I think everyone needs to align around what the change actually is). And then I may NEVER REVISIT IT AGAIN. Things change along the journey of the change, so unless the solution and impacts change massively and require rethinking all the stakeholder groups and needs from scratch, it will often be more useful to focus on keeping the Change Plan and other key documents like the Training Needs Analysis up-to-date, rather than the Impact Assessment.
Use it to lead the rest of the change
The Impact Assessment is one of the best tools used in Change Management simply because it creates a foundation for so many other Change deliverables, in particular the Change Plan, Communications Plan, Training Needs Analysis and more. It’s a great starting point for a detailed Stakeholder Listing, and can be used for onboarding new Changies into the project.
So these are my secrets to completing Impact Assessments faster and funner (is that a word?), and you might totally have a different view and approach and that’s cool. Just remember not to take the Change Impact Assessment too seriously. As we say in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): "There is no failure, only feedback."
If you’d like to build your confidence in end-to-end Change delivery and how to approach and complete all the main tools and templates in Change Management, come join my Leading Successful Change program. There’s live demos, walkthroughs, tips and tricks on Impact Assessments, Change Plans, Communication Plans, Training Needs Analysis, Support Models, Business Readiness Checks, Post-Implementation Reviews and more.
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