The Value of Organizational Change Management (OCM)
Organizational Change Management (defined below), or OCM, is a concept and an activity that has been around for years, and still struggles to gain priority status with many organizational leaders. Many times, when going through a period of change, Leadership is so focused on the tactical side of going through the change (“turning the wrenches”) that they completely forget about the people who will be turning the wrenches once this change has been implemented.
This oversight is understandable, especially since leadership bandwidth, competing priorities and so many activities can get in the way of managing change in a way that will truly make an impact. However, the risk of failure becomes exponentially greater the more people that are involved and impacted by the project or initiative. And this can lead to poor adoption and execution of the change.
To understand when to develop and execute an Organizational Change Management Plan, let’s first define Organizational Change Management. Of the various definitions of what is Organizational Change Management, the United States Government Accountability Office has a very solid and comprehensive definition:
Change Management: activities involved in (1) defining and instilling new values, attitudes, norms, and behaviors within an organization that support new ways of doing work and overcome resistance to change; (2) building consensus among customers and stakeholders on specific changes designed to better meet their needs; and (3) planning, testing, and implementing all aspects of the transition from one organizational structure or business process to another.
So what’s the takeaway? When making change in your organization, the people experiencing the change need to be guided through this transition in a thoughtful and structured manner.
But when should this be done? How does someone quantify or identify, when going through the additional time and effort is necessary to build and execute a Change Management Plan?
Conditions for a Change Management Plan
Here are four identifying conditions to help you recognize when a Change Management Plan is necessary.
1.) More than 20 people (give or take a few) will need to change what they do for a critical job function. When working in a small team (under 20 people), and the change is isolated to only that team or department, it’s easy to call a quick huddle, a meeting, or just lean back and say “hey, we’re going to change this. OK?” However, when you have more than 20 people, this approach becomes increasingly more difficult. Any change involving between 20 – 50 people would probably need a light Change Management Plan, meaning nothing very complex or difficult to execute. Anything over 50, and certainly enterprise wide should have a structured Change Management Plan with a dedicated person(s) to drive its execution.
2.) Multiple departments/work groups are involved in executing the change. Change that involves more than one department, as a general rule will need a structured Change Management Plan. The implication is that when executing a change across departments or work groups, process and role changes are occurring. This may also impact compensation plans (both individual and group) and, if you are in a regulated industry, it can become even more complicated.
A critical error many organizations make during change is not effectively communicating and educating staff who need to work across department lines how that handoff/transaction will be changing. This leads to miscommunications, inaccurate or incomplete information, and an endless stream of conflict between groups. With a Change Management Plan that has been developed and executed effectively, teams may actually work better, internally and across departments than before as a result of understanding how they impact other members of the organization who depend on their work.
3.) There is “significant change” in terms of how people do their work. Being somewhat subjective, my measure of “significant” in this context is when a group of people will be changing around 30% of their daily activity (measured by hours spent, e.g., 12 hours in a 40-hour work week are different) by changing their process, learning and using a new system, device or other tool. Some may argue that this number could be significantly higher or lower. 30% is based upon my experience where people really start having negative reactions if they are told to just do it without proper guidance or communication. A change of this magnitude is stressful and difficult to do without support. A Change Management Plan would provide a roadmap to help these people move forward, minimizing the fear of the unknown hindering their progress.
4.) Resistance has already been witnessed and felt. This is the one condition that does not have a number associated to it. Often, project leaders will understand very early on how impactful this change will be and will be leery of how their organization will accept this change. This is commonly based on the success and adoption (or lack thereof) of past changes, blatant and at times aggressive resistance to change, and other signs that the organization may strongly resist change. Part of a well-developed Change Management Plan is clearly identifying and strategizing for the organizations readiness for change*. What this means is that depending on the priority level of the project, the project may need to be delayed, or different Organizational Change Management tactics will need to be utilized to move the organization and its people through this change.
Going through change is hard, but it does not need to be overwhelming. Change, by no means, is impossible. However, the first step to ensuring that change will be adopted with the least amount of productivity loss over the shortest amount of time is to understand whether a Change Management Plan needs to be developed and executed.
Change Management Plan Execution
Here is my final thought: When a Change Management Plan is in place and being executed, resist the temptation to move time and resources that are allocated for Change Management to finish operational go live tasks or to simply be forgotten in the rush to complete the project. Too often I have seen project delays and other project issues push Change Management off to the side. Often this is due to Leaders viewing Change Management activities as a lower priority (and usually should be).
However, if Change Management is pushed to the side, the projects will be completed, on time, and possibly in full, but rarely without errors due to poor adoption of the change. Those errors will cause additional costs to manage ongoing resistance to change, as well as the time-consuming correction of transactions and data due to people not using the system or processes as intended. If leaders want projects to be delivered in the least disruptive and most cost-effective manner, then Organizational Change Management needs to be viewed with the same criticality as requiring that all employees have the proper tools and facilities with which to perform their jobs.
Using the conditions above to identify when a Change Management Plan is needed, and executing it as needed without constraints will put your organization in the best possible position to transition through the change as painless as possible.
Want to learn more about how TSI can help your organization through a time of transition? Read more about how TSI approaches OCM by going to the Organizational Change Management page on our website, or contact us directly at TSI@transforming.com or call us at (847) 705-0960.