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A Way to Assess and Prioritize Your Change Efforts

JULY 09, 2015

Change is the status quo.

Companies the world over realize that success depends on their ability to respond to new opportunities and threats as they emerge, and to keep rethinking their strategies, structures, and tactics to gain ephemeral competitive advantages.

As a result, change initiatives have become more complex than ever before, cutting across divisions and functions rather than staying confined to silos.

They are global too, often extending across borders to several nations with different cultures.

Companies must set up and oversee change initiatives more systematically than they used to if they want to succeed. They must periodically evaluate projects against each other to ensure that they have deployed the right amounts of resources, people, and attention across competing efforts. Executives must also find ways of catalyzing the discussions that will result in reprioritizing, re-scoping, or retiring change efforts that no longer serve the organization’s objectives.

Accomplishing all that is tough, and keeps business leaders awake at night. Many tell us that they lack tools to help them check whether their change initiatives are likely to work, or to identify the drivers of success and failure. That’s why we decided to reintroduce a change management tool called the DICE assessment, which we have been refining since we first wrote about it in HBR a decade ago, and a version of which is now available for online use.

With the aid of the DICE tool, companies can assess the probability of success of change initiatives early in their lives. By evaluating projects with a standard scoring mechanism and monitoring those scores over time, the assessment helps managers preserve the odds of success.

It also enables executives gauge what is likely to happen if they shift attention and resources between efforts, which helps them make better-informed mid-course corrections. As companies launch new initiatives and redistribute resources, the DICE score, and the likelihood of success, for existing projects will change.

In addition, the scoring system helps turn challenges into conversations; everyone from the CEO to junior team members will gain a standard basis for discussing change initiatives.

The DICE assessment measures four elements that, according to our research, determine the fate of every change initiative:

Duration. The overall project time of the change initiative, or the time between learning milestones. The shorter, the better.

Integrity of team performance. An indicator of the team’s ability to complete the initiative on time based on members’ skills, traits, and experience as well as the leaders’ competencies.

Commitment. The support for, and belief in, the initiative at two levels: The senior management level, and among the directly affected employees.

Effort. The additional workload that affected employees must bear because of the change initiative.

The project team must score each of those elements on a scale from one to four and combine the weighted scores; performance integrity and senior executive commitment have a larger weight than the other parameters. The result will be a score that will range from seven to 28; lower scores are good signs while higher scores indicate trouble.

Having assessed literally thousands of projects, we find that every project will fall in one of three zones, indicating its likely outcome.

1. If the score is lower than 14, it indicates that the initiative has a high likelihood of success; we