Skip links
white and red metal frame

Mastering the Change Journey: Risk Mitigation with effective Frameworks


Having been on the driving, implementing and receiving side of change multiple times in my career, both internally and externally – I can confirm first hand, change is bloody hard. But you knew that, most of us have been there. Now, what is shocking, is that despite going through the painful process of changing, most of these change initiatives aren’t even successful. The data shows: more than 70% of change initiatives fail (some studies suggest that number is as high as 90%). I find this quite shocking, considering the short and long-term cost of change initiatives. What is worse, if employees have gone through too many failed change projects, the reluctance towards new initiatives, change fatigue etc. will only increase over time. However, since change and the ability to manage it on an organisational level, is essential for businesses to adapt to the constantly changing market, client and product demands- to simply stop changing, is not a viable option, let’s see what the main reasons are for change initiatives to fail, what can be done to not fall into these traps and which (easy to use ) frameworks can be helpful to mitigate risks:

red metal frame illustration

Unclear/ undefined vision and outcome

How can you lead people into a destination, which isn’t clearly defined and expect success? Caesar didn’t tell his troops to on their horses and ride towards better things or more land. He’s success in creating a big momentum with people loyally following him in his conquests, came down to defining a clear target and outcome, what the benefits of this outcome were for everyone and how to get there exactly. In the absence of a clear vision or well-defined goals, change initiatives can quickly lose direction. We often think that a vision and business outcome is clearly defined, but in reality, they often are too vague and not thought through sufficiently. They are often not SMART. The SMART framework can be very helpful in refining the vision and goal-setting process. The MoSCoW method can further help in prioritizing these goals, clarifying the aspects of the initiative that are must-haves, should-haves, could-haves, and won’t-haves. Both frameworks are great for bringing stakeholders along early, making them part of the process and making sure they are heard.

Resistance to Change

This is said to be the factor, that derails the most change initiatives. However, if we think about it from a people dynamics perspective, it is rarely so that people simply resist change for the sake of it. Typically, this problem, is an extension of the previous point in most cases. If a poorly defined vision is created, it is hard to create support in the wider organisation, because no-one wants to mobilise additional resources to do something they don’t understand nor the reasons they should be doing it for. Overall, the sooner people are brought into a change process, the more they feel transparently included and have the possibility to have a positive impact – the higher the success rate of this initiative will be. A simple stakeholder analysis in a Power / Interest Matrix, will provide an overview of the different stakeholder dynamics, the importance they carry and helps to build a proactive strategy to include their respective interests (and objections) into the plan early. Also, a great model to plan and manage different stakeholders into the change process is Prosci’s ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement) model. It suggests creating awareness about the need for change, instilling the desire to participate and support the change, providing knowledge about how to change, enabling individuals with the ability to implement new skills and behaviours, and reinforcing to sustain the change. I also highly recommend appointing internal change agents, to have a finger on the pulse of the organisation, closely manage the people dynamics and continuously drive progress forward. A framework that can help the change agents to navigate and prioritise the various decisions that need to be made during a change implementation, is the change kaleidoscope.

Poor Communication

This is surely nothing new, we all know about the importance of skilful communication. Anyone who ever was in some sort of relationship or business partnership, led teams and negotiated deals knows that communication is key. It’s not any different in change management!

Once you have defined a clear vision and outcome for your change initiative and laid out a plan on how to manage the team through the change – inform your people about it. Be transparent why the business is going through the change (internal, external factors), what the scenarios are if nothing is changing and acknowledge that change is hard. Make sure you create an open, continuous and bi-directional line of communication throughout the change initiative. You think this may be something small and silly, but being present with empathy, holding hands, deferring worries, listening – is absolute key to successful change. Because without your people acting on your plan, it will remain exactly that: on paper. Again, this is where change agents can help tremendously. Also, the SCQuARE method can help you streamline communication by structuring the messages effectively. The Nudge Theory can be useful to influence behavior subtly and encourage acceptance of the change, thus enhancing the impact of communication efforts.

Inadequate Leadership Commitment and Support

Strong leadership commitment is paramount in leading successful change. A leadership team who is responsible, accountable, connected and approachable during a change initiative is key. Whilst these attributes are important throughout any time in business, they are the factors that determine whether a change will be successful or fail. The McKinsey 7-S Model, which stresses the importance of shared values (including leadership commitment), alongside strategy, structure, systems, style, staff, and skills, is a great framework that provides a holistic approach to driving change. Implementing this model ensures that leadership commitment isn’t isolated but incorporated into a broader, interconnected network of elements that drive organizational effectiveness.

Inefficient Resource Allocation

Another classic reason for change to fail, is the lack of proper allocation of resources to the initiative. Whilst this should be a no-brainer (imagine Caesar had to go conquering without troops, horses or weaponry), the reality is that still many companies want to do change on the easy and cheap end. And as we all know, if that is the case – the result will be accordingly!

A good framework to use to allocate people resources is the RACI matrix  (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed), which can be used to clarify roles and responsibilities for improved resource allocation, ensuring that every element of the change initiative has a designated owner and that all stakeholders know their roles. The other tool of course is project finance, which needs to provide funds to match these allocated roles.

Poor Change Management Strategy

An effective change management strategy is the cornerstone of successful change. Lewin’s Change Management Model, encompassing three stages – Unfreeze, Change, and Refreeze, offers a solid strategy to manage change. This approach underlines the importance of preparation, transition, and consolidation of change, ensuring that the initiative does not lose momentum and is successfully embedded into the organization.

Neglecting Organizational Culture

The role of organizational culture in the success of change initiatives cannot be underestimated. Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions and Johnson’s Cultural Web can be utilized to gain a deep understanding of the organizational culture. When used alongside the McKinsey’s 7-S Model, these tools can help develop a culturally coherent change strategy, ensuring that the initiative is in harmony with, or intentionally shifts, the prevailing culture.

There are also a number of frameworks that can be used to check in during an ongoing change initiative to validate that it is on track, what new dynamics and influences have come up etc. Some of them are well known project management tools, balanced scorecards and other KPI metrics. Another great one is the force-field analysis.

Change the way you change!

Change initiatives demand a delicate balance of strategic planning, clear communication, dedicated leadership, and an in-depth understanding of organizational culture. By employing these risk mitigation strategies and models, businesses can improve their change management efforts, propelling their change initiatives towards success. Although the path of change is complex and challenging, stop changing is not an option. Change the way you change, put structure and science into your change (whether it is with some of the above framworks or many others available doesn’t matter too much) – and you and your business will be well-prepared to master the journey!

Leave a comment