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  • Writer's pictureKait Dinunzio

Anticipating the Butterfly Effect: Impact Analysis

Updated: Nov 9, 2022


verb /imˈpakt/

to have a strong effect on someone or something.


Impact is something that happens with any type of change, no matter how big or small. The impact can be perceived as positive or negative, which is dependent on the current level of resilience and change memory that stakeholders have:

  • Do they thrive or struggle with change?

  • Has change been a poor experience for them in the past?

  • Is the person running the change program someone they can trust?

  • Do they trust the organization?

  • Do they have outside stressors that are further aggravated because of the change?

  • Are they part of leading or able to influence the change?

  • Is the change "happening to" them?

  • Are there other changes happening in the organization that may intersect with your change?

Considering these questions as you identify your impacted stakeholders provides a helpful tool in creating engaging strategies that people can support. In addition to the above-noted, there are two major areas of change that we look at when we assess the impact of change:

Structural Impacts (organizational/business facing), including things like:

  • Business strategy

  • Market position

  • Technology/systems

  • Processes and procedures

  • Workflows etc.

People Impacts (human/cultural), including things like:

  • Behaviour

  • Motivation

  • Recognition

  • Political dynamics

  • Inclusion/exclusion

  • Losing power

  • Leader mindset & attitude etc.


A detailed impact assessment helps in more than a few ways.

It allows you to think outside your own project bias (what you "know" as an insider to the project) and allows you to dig into what's important when it comes to preparing a people-centric strategy. This exercise helps identify the ripples or waves that one small change may have once implemented. Sure, decommissioning a piece of software doesn't seem like a big deal with only a "handful" of impacted stakeholders, but when you think of removing an application or data from stakeholders, there is a level of loss that those individuals will experience, especially if they're being transitioned to a new application, or perhaps having to stop using a specific data set to complete their work. Your one "small change" may alter how they do their work, or may in fact change their entire function. The impact assessment will also help you think of things like disrupted workflows, the introduction of possible "swivel chair" activities and other things that may be unnecessarily disruptive if you're not applying a strategic lens.

"Impact analysis helps anticipate the Butterfly Effect with your change."

A strong, detailed impact analysis may also help you identify other areas of the organization that need to be considered or consulted within the change. This may uncover opportunities for second or third phases, new projects or additions to your current scope. Don't let this deter you; prioritize what's immediately within your scope of work and ensure that you flag other concerns you may have with the Butterfly Effect of your change. (We have this saying, "Silence fails." Choosing not to say something when you see a clear impact will leave a bad taste in your stakeholder's mouths.)

Remember, when embarking on your change journey, don't forget to consider the overall impact. This is a crucial step that many organizations fail to perform, and I can't tell you how much time, money and effort could be saved if this was considered up front, every single time. Your impact analysis, alongside your readiness assessment will become the blueprints for your strategy and if well thought out, will enable nimble course correction along the change journey.

Want to discuss impact analysis or your impact tools? Reach out - a call doesn't cost a thing!

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