Find out how managers can prepare business stakeholders for change and make it a regular part of their analysis practice.

There are few certainties in our professional lives. Change is one of them. Nearly everything that I am involved in as a business analysis professional involves change. Most often, work changes are decided and announced abruptly. It can feel like a tornado arriving fast and furious, leaving debris in its wake.

Preparing business stakeholders for change should become a regular part of our analysis practice. This helps turn that tornado into a breeze that is noticeable, but not disruptive.

How can you prepare stakeholders for changes? Here are three tools to use with an organizational change management focus.

Context Data Flow Diagram

This technique is underutilized in business analysis. The purpose of this technique is to understand each person, system, and their interactions in a project.

First, identify the sources or destinations of data (information) for the project and the related high-level data that flows to and from the source and the project.

This is a high-level scoping technique that enables an understanding of the entire project.  We do this to make sure we know each person and system involved.

Current State Process

In addition to the people and processes, knowing what the organizational current state processes are is key to planning for change. We cannot provide directions to a new location without understanding where we are starting. Organizations implementing a new product, process, system, or other change often miss this important foundational step.

Workflows can be done at many levels. Understanding high-level processes involved in a business creates insight into what capabilities are present, who is able to execute on those capabilities, and what systems are in place.

This knowledge informs gap analysis by comparing where you are today with where you want to be in the future. You will understand what must be added or removed from the organization to get to where you want to be.

We cannot provide directions to a new location without first understanding where we are starting.

Stakeholder Analysis – Apply ADKAR Model

It is important to understand the people in a project. For change management, we need to add additional attributes in order to understand change capability.

In relation to the change ahead, we need to understand each stakeholder’s awareness of the need for change, desire for the change, knowledge of how to change, ability to implement the desired changes and reinforcement to sustain the change. This is known as the ADKAR model. For each person that is involved in a process, it is important to gain an understanding of where they are using a change assessment viewpoint.

Take the time to ask questions that allow you to know the change capability of each person. You will find that this exercise empowers you to influence each individual’s ‘buy in’ differently than you have understood previously, as well as plan for a successful implementation.

Consider adding these questions to your stakeholder analysis to help you assess stakeholders’ change capability.

  • Can you describe why we are doing this project?
  • What is your comfort level with changing what you are doing today?
  • How do you approach changes in your life?
  • What do you know about this new skill, capability, or system?
  • How do you approach learning a new skill?

When you understand your stakeholders’ capabilities to understand and adapt to changes, you can formulate a more comprehensive plan for how to help them implement the changes.

I always ask myself, “How will Heather, the human, be able to do this new thing I am working on? Does she have the information to know why we need to change? Does she know how to change? Will she be able to continue to change and improve what we have implemented?”

This focus helps manage the tornado-like feel of changes and creates a culture that feels the breeze of change as refreshing rather than as a disruptive storm.

By utilizing the proper tools—a context data flow diagram, current state process, and the ADKAR model—you can better prepare for change and help stakeholders adjust to new capabilities or systems.


Article Author: Heather Mylan-Mains, CBAP, MBA, CSM, Prosci