Change Impact Matrix: Understanding the Consequences of Changes

With shrinking technology lifecycles, as well as economic and technology developments happening every day, people are confronting the reality of continuous change. Managers are looking for tools that can help them prepare project teams for change initiatives. The Change Impact Matrix is a descriptive tool that details the scope of the changes that everyone involved in a project will face. The matrix is useful for presenting the project context to upper management when discussing the project status, schedule, and progress to plan.

Benefits of the Change Impact Matrix

  • Provides an at-a-glance understanding of high/medium/low change impacts
  • Serves as a discussion guide for planning risk-mitigation activities
  • Informs project leaders about areas requiring greater and lesser degrees of communication and training
  • Informs stakeholders about the degree of impact in advance of change
Change Impact Matrix

As the program manager, you create the Change Impact Matrix with the key core team members in the room. Assign your business owners to fill in the map for each role within their areas. These people become your change ambassadors, and this exercise ensures that they understand the impact of your project on the people in their business areas.

Schedule a meeting of approximately 90 minutes to review and modify the map in real time with the team. Involving the group in this process improves the map’s accuracy and completeness and improves commitment.

After the team reviews the Change Impact Matrix, the executives in charge of oversight review it along with the project schedule. The program manager updates the map over time as issues are resolved or unanticipated issues arise.

To create the matrix:

  1. Fill out the first major column of the table with the group or role in question.
  2. In the next two columns assess the impact of both technology and processes on the role/group.
  3. Next, assess the estimated degree of change from the perspective of role, process, culture, and technology; these final four columns in the matrix are subjective but they are the most important.
    1. Assess the degree of change by “thumb voting”: thumbs up (high), thumbs sideways (medium), or thumbs down (low) for each cell.
    2. The facilitator counts the most frequent thumb position for each cell.
    3. If there is dissension, the facilitator asks the outliers to discuss their point of view.
    4. After limited discussion, the facilitator repeats the thumbs voting process and uses the majority opinion for the chart.
    5. Repeat the same process for each subsequent role.

If you have even one or two roles or functions that are medium or high on the map, you may need to assign owners to manage the training and communication work streams for these roles. Be sure these two work streams have capable leaders and detailed work plans, and that the other project team members understand what they need to do to deliver the training and communication.

What Business Problems Does the Tool Solve?

The success of most business improvement projects hinges on the ability to implement change. Preparing people for change is often the most difficult part of the initiative. A structured approach that focuses on the details can quickly target the roles that are most affected by changes to process, hierarchy, and technology.

In our new world of greater autonomy, the team needs tools that they can use by themselves because top management no longer micromanages. The team must be more self-sufficient. The Change Impact Matrix gives your team insight and clarity to implement change programs without needing top management input at every juncture.

Finally, when your project has a limited budget, you may not have an assigned change manager. This tool helps a project manager wear the dual hats of program manager and change manager.

What Else You Should Know

When building this matrix, make sure you cast a wide net and include as many functional areas as you can think of – and then add a few more. Secondly, make sure you invite senior people and deep thinkers to your review session. Once you have completed the Change Impact Matrix, be sure to use it regularly to guide you safely to your destination.