Organisational Change Management – How to apply it?

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Welcome to OCtober 16. This month we’re talking a lot about Organisational Change Management (OCM). We hope to engage with the business community about what OCM is, why it is important, how it helps businesses, how it works and what the future looks like. We’d like you to participate, so tell us your thoughts and stories.

A maturing discipline

OCM used to carry connotations of being the soft, touchy-feely element of projects. This notion has been long held by many leaders and across many organisations. In the past 10-15 years OCM has matured rapidly as a discipline, with strong influences from Australia and USA, becoming more and more commonly recognized as a critical component of successful projects.

OCM is essentially about looking after the people side of projects. It is supporting the technical project delivery with timely and targeted change interventions to ensure people adopt change.

OCM operates in parallel

Able and How see it as a parallel running project with OCM goals at its heart. We are concerned with adoption, resistance, disruption and engagement. In the same way that a Project Manager would run a technical project, a Change Manager would run a change project in many similar ways. A strategy, a plan, objectives, a team, a regular cadence, reporting, measures of success. Structures and controls to ensure successful outcomes.

Since the early 90’s Prosci have been developing and refining change theory, methodologies and tools to support organisations help people adopt change. In their yearly benchmarking studies of the market, participants are asked to recognise what the greatest contributors were to the overall success of their projects. Regularly ranked towards the top, the use of ‘a structured approach to change management’ highlights how a solid framework for delivering OCM is now recognised as not just a nice to have, but an essential step in realising project benefits.

Guided by leading theory

There are various leading theories on change. Many of these you will be familiar with. Kotter’s 8 Steps, Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Freeze model, Kübler-Ross’ Transition Curve, Proci’s ADKAR, and McKinsey’s 7-S Framework. Most cover similar ground around the process and methods available to ensure change happens in the right way, and sticks. They are essentially ways of helping understand change, as opposed to scientific explanations or facts.

At Able and How, we take our lead from a solid core of the consistently operationalised theories in the way that we support organisations through change. Through the use of a structured framework and detailed methodology we can ensure change is managed and delivered in a planned but flexible way.

During a project every eventuality cannot be planned for and so you must maintain some flexibility in your approach. However, having a structured framework or methodology as a starting point, a baseline, as a guiding light, remains the cornerstone for successful change.

Change building blocks

As mentioned in last week’s blog on what OCM is, Able and How’s high-level OCM Framework sets out the main building blocks for delivering sustainable and effective organisational change. The main components of this framework are:

  • Building a strategic design for how the change will be managed, which uses leadership insight and environmental context to create the overarching approach.
  • Next it covers how you then position the change in the organisation, in terms of strategic messaging, a broad narrative and more detailed and targeted engagement tactics.
  • Once this is in place you can seek to understand more about the OCM requirements and detail the change. This is used to create a single view of change interventions based on the people needs for change and communication activity.
  • It is also important to establish how the lifecycle of the change project will be governed, in terms of who makes decisions, who supports the change from the business and how that operates around a project structure. With a clear design, positioning and single view of change, this is easier to agree
  • When this is all in place the execution of the change interventions or tactics can take place: delivering on the plan to support the change going live. This might be aligned to waterfall or agile project delivery.
  • Throughout the end-to-end process we want to be able to build the change capability of individuals across the organisation. Often this starts early and unofficially with leadership teams and can range from helping develop their understanding of change and why it’s important to accrediting them as fully fledged change specialists. You can watch our recent webinar on Developing Change Capability to understand more about this.
  • Successful OCM is informed by clear measurement and metrics to ensure we can track and assess success, understand the organisations ability to change and show the ongoing value of change. Able and How’s Change Index is a good example of this.

In this framework each element builds on the previous and contains detailed tools and processes. Able and How’s OCM framework is a simple overview for supporting change projects and programmes.

161003 OCM Framework Lite

Dedicated change capabilities

However, applying OCM in a structured way, through a simple framework or a detailed methodology isn’t always enough on its own to ensure success. It is important to have people in an organisation who can support, develop or execute the change. A dedicated change office or function has become more and more popular in large organisations. As the demand for change support grows, so does the need to have more change specialists readily available, in one place, under one roof.

In our experience of operating and working for and with change teams across many global organisations we recognise there are core competencies or capabilities required to succeed in a specialist change role:

  • Understand ‘the business’ – individuals who are well connected, who can engage and empathise with impacted people. Create insight based on knowledge of different business areas.
  • Think strategically – sometimes as change specialists we need to be able to join the dots across the organisation so that we can truly understand what the impact of change is. This means looking across, looking forward and looking outside your immediate environment.
  • Partner with teams – being able to work closely and collaborate with people across the organisation, in order to develop a plan or create a network of champions.
  • Customer focus – many organisations have a strong culture of placing their customers at the heart of everything they do. As change specialists we often look at our internal customers (the people impacted by change) as the focus of our objectives.
  • Translate complexity into clear solutions – often having a strong technical focus helps change specialists act as ‘translators’ for the business or impacted people, so that they understand what is going to happen and what the change means.

These are just a handful of attributes that would help individuals. There are more and different ones for different situations that would bring experience, depth and capability to any change project.

The ultimate success of a change project or programme depends on a number of factors. However, applying OCM will greatly contribute to the success. There are a number of other things that need to be in place to ensure objectives are met. Throughout the month of OCtober we will explore more of these, including who is accountable for change and what the future of change looks like.

Stay tuned, share your comments below, share this article, get involved and help us spread the word of OCM through organisations like yours.



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2 Responses

  1. James

    Good article. Spotted a few typos and grammar issues.

  2. David Ferrabee

    Wayne, interesting article.
    In your experience what is different about the expectations organisations have of OCM in different parts of the world? Where you have worked anyway?

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