From family outings to delivering change: why impact assessments matter.

When embarking on a new project to deliver change, companies can often look at the promised results without having a full understanding of the impact it may have to its customers or business model. In this article, Heb França explains the importance of an Impact Assessment with a very real-life, four-wheeled scenario.

Heb is one of our new Senior Consultants, and has spent most of his UK working life in Change Management within the regulated financial sector.

 

As the 2nd half of my 30s approached, I thought it would be a perfect time to have an early mid-life crisis. Whilst the most embarrassing elements of that decision shall remain in the privacy of my memory (and that of my friends & family), the time also coincided with me needing to swap cars.

As a father of 2 girls, I spent weeks convincing myself that a 2-seater would be just fine. I created unrealistic solutions for the various problems this would cause, most, if not all, of which relied on a fantastic mitigating factor… My wife and her car, which unlike mine, did fit 4 people in quite comfortably.

Despite test driving multiple 2-seater cars and daydreaming about having the roof down and listening to the beautiful sound of what will soon be a thing on the past (its engine), the maths just didn’t add up. School runs, family trips or even a day out would be limited to just me in the car, or both cars. In the end I looked at what I needed and what I could afford with a hint of what I wanted and then I found something that ticked those boxes.

The above was a perfect real-life example of an ‘Impact Assessment’.

What’s an impact assessment?

As the name suggests, an impact assessment allows organisations to look at the impact of a decision that is being made. It also brings teams together to fully understand the various moving parts that influence the decision.

We undertake impact assessments every day in our lives, and many of those decisions need to be made as a group rather than individually in siloes.

  • Where to go on holiday (making sure it has a kids club, or adult only activities)
  • Which furniture to buy (will it fit in the room, will I need help assembling it and, if so, can I get that help?)
  • Even organising a dinner (are there any dietary requirements and, if so, can I cater for all of them?).

And yet, having been in Change Management for the best part of a decade, I still find that most organisations fail to undertake suitable impact assessments when considering or even getting started with business change, whether it be strategic programmes of work with various moving parts or small initiatives within single teams.

What can go wrong?

For instance, sending a notification to an entire customer base without notifying or consulting with operational teams to understand if they can respond/manage those customers could have a huge negative customer impact. What may well be a beneficial decision for customers can actually result in the opposite without a proper analysis.

Another example would be purchasing a high-tech tool with hundreds of features when some simple automation steps would serve the business model for the foreseeable, resulting in a huge financial investment with very little gains. In other words: buying a Ferrari to do the school run when a Ford Fiesta would do the job.

An impact assessment allows companies to bring their team together, removing silos and minimising conflicts. What may look like a simple commercial decision can result in solutions that don’t deliver the desired benefits or are ineffective to other departments. Understanding this up front is a huge win.

I think of it as a four-step approach:

1. Identify the original opportunity

What is the problem statement or issue that needs fixing? i.e. Legacy system, manual processes, resources. This is the easiest part of the process as it’s effectively ‘finding the problem’. The difficult part here is to not jump to solution mode.

(For me, needing a car. I was initially jumping to solution mode – the 2-seater.)

2. Analyse the opportunity with the business

This is where engagement with the wider business takes place to fully understand what this opportunity means for everyone. I’ve seen examples of various departments suffering with processes in silence, not knowing it impacted other areas. Suddenly, the issue that was originally thought to be contained to one department is now a business issue, making a business case much stronger.

On the other hand, an issue contained to one business area can sometimes be resolved in an open forum by having an open line of communication where there is a transparency between departments. This is also the start of requirements, whether it be short term or long term but here is where companies start seeing what they actually need.

(This was my realisation that a 2-seater was not really viable.)

3. Review solutions that are fit for purpose

Once everyone has had the chance to review the change required, staying grounded and realistic is the next challenge. It’s easy to go ‘all out’ on something which, on paper, seems to be what’s needed when in fact it could be too much, resulting in further issues down the line. Change needs to be managed way beyond the point of delivery. Looking back at the Ferrari analogy, a Ferrari may need to be serviced every 3 months at a considerable cost each time, whereas a Ford Fiesta only needs it once a year at a fraction of the cost, yet both fulfil the school run requirement.

And so, understanding the impact of the solution across all parties is incredibly key. This stage also ensures that any solutions or recommendations are discussed with everyone. This provides an opportunity for all to say whether it impacts them or not and, if so, what that impact means.

(Going back to car-buying, this stage was about looking at options that would work both for me and for my family. I even took the kids along to make sure they could get in and out easily, had enough space etc.)

4. Understand the impact of the solution

Finally, having selected a solution (or multiple, for review purposes) where all parties have been included as part of the process minimises changes later in the process, ensures everyone is prepared for what’s about to change, and vastly reduces the risk of re-work or delays, which often has a cost impact. It also means that everybody’s input has been considered.

(In the end, my family all agrees – we chose the right car! Stay tuned for the reveal..)

There are, of course, different methodologies of change management. All of which have their own pros and cons and must be followed according to what it is being delivered. However, I truly think that the impact assessment element transcends methodologies. Whether it be iterative or a full review at the start, you cannot embark on change until you truly understand the impacts it may have, or at least review and consider them.

To sum up..

Impact assessments can often be seen as a blocker or a delaying factor when, in reality, they can prevent those in latter stages of delivery. There will always be unknowns, the very nature of change is that you need to be adaptable and accepting of the fact that things will continue to evolve.

Being prepared upfront can save time, resource and money spent dealing with incidents or additional requirements that were not considered or known at the start.

As for the car… I ended up with a 4-door saloon!

If you would like to discuss how objective, impartial assessments can support informed decision-making in your organisation, let’s talk.

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