Research suggests that 70% of strategic change initiatives fail to achieve attended benefits. This failure is often due to unmitigated or hidden risks. There is lots of advice and tried and true methods on mitigating risk but how do you uncover hidden risk? Risk in strategic change initiatives can be divided into two categories
- Solution Fit and Operations Risk
- Change Process Risk
Solution risk is related to the misfit of what is being changed. Change process risk is related to gaps in or inappropriate preparation for implementing the change. A key source of hidden risk in both these areas is the social structure of the change. Social structure in an organization is comprised of the interactions of people with each other and the technology they use as they engage in the processes of their work. These interactions are seldom documented or standardized, but rather are inferred or developed over time as processes are standardized. Many hidden risks lie in unidentified hindrances to effective interactions in the new way of doing things or in the processes of preparing for this change.
Apply Design Thinking to Designing Change
Product designers are well aware of the need to understand how a customer would interact with the new product. As part of the product design process, they actively seek to identify anything that would hinder the effective use of the product. In design thinking this core principle is often called developing customer empathy. This is not an emotional skill. Empathy is the ability to understand what somewhat else is experiencing. For product designers, empathy is exploring and understanding the experience of the customer in using the product.
Change leaders can apply the same design principles of design thinking to uncover hidden risks that may negatively impact the effective interactions and performance of the stakeholders (people) involved in operationalizing the strategic change. For change leaders, the principle of stakeholder empathy is exploring and understanding the experience of the stakeholder in participating in the new or changing processes. Developing stakeholder empathetic knowledge enables identification of unnecessary hindrances to stakeholder interactions, such as incorrect perceptions about the change, interaction inefficiencies, unnecessary interactions or misinformed stakeholder perceptions that undermine the change.
Learn how to use Empathy to Uncover Hidden Risks
A critical enabler of stakeholder empathy is two way communication. Patti Sanchez writes in a recent HBR article that "Studies on organizational change show that leaders across the board agree: if you want to lead a successful transformation, communicating empathetically is critical. But the truth is that most leaders don’t actually know how to do it.” Or leaders may feel there is not enough time or they don’t want to open up the possibility of lengthy emotional debates.
As a consultant you can provide extra value to your clients when you equip them to effectively uncover hidden risks in the change initiatives you are recommending and/or helping them implement. Implementing empathy requires more than listening. It also requires soliciting feedback to ensure accurate understanding of the current or potential stakeholder experience and potential hidden risks. Gaining input from impacted stakeholders on how to mitigate these risks is invaluable to ensuring change success.
Our Critical Success Factors for Strategic Change course provides the opportunity to learn and practise how to use simple yet powerful visual tools for implementing stakeholder empathy and uncovering hidden risks. This is an online course that is instructor led. It takes about 10 hours over a period of three weeks. You will learn about and practise building a visual stakeholder change perception model and be introduced to a stakeholder value model.
The course author, Louise Harris, is a CMC and CCMP (Certified Change Management Practitioner). She has over 25 years of experience in designing and implementing organizational change. She is currently completing a PhD in organization change design using innovative visual tools. The second instructor, James Grieve, is a CMC and CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional). He has years of experience implementing organizational change to enable business growth.
CMC is offering this course at only $295 for members, a significant discount below market value, to promote the value of CMC. Please feel free to extend this invitation to your colleagues and clients.
The course starts on Jan 21, 2019. Sign Up Now to reserve your place.