Selling Organizational Change Management Internally

June 30, 2021 — Chris Spencer

When discussing Organizational Change Management (OCM), an organization leader may vocalize concern regarding what value the business will receive from adding OCM to their project scope. This conversation most likely will be framed in terms of the organization having never incorporated OCM or sporadic application of OCM in previous projects. These projects may have been less than successful or failed outright and the organization may not fully understand why that happened, ironically.  Change Management consultants may be tempted to answer that initial value question with responses like enhanced communication, stakeholder analysis, a comprehensive sponsor model, impact index, training support, analysis of survey results, etc. Those items are indeed parts of a viable and effective change management plan, but an engaged leader should be focused on what benefit(s) they and the stakeholders will realize by allowing OCM to be an active part of the project they sponsor.

The OCM consultant and/or project manager’s challenge lies in the notion that the organization indicates that the project’s success hinges on achieving those results. Still, the financial, resource, and energy allocations are minor compared to the overall project budget.  This dilemma becomes acute when one realizes that project “koozies, key fobs, coffee mugs, and tumblers” are the singular attempt at generating awareness and desire for the project to succeed.

The selling of the application of OCM should be oriented towards the benefits of hedging against the risk of the project not being successful.  No organization wants to implement a project or application only to find itself in need of retraining, revising workflows, redesigning interfaces, reworking user roles, etc.  All these remedial actions have a negative impact on the project’s overall cost and contribute to the added risk of the resistance of adoption by the stakeholders.

There are concepts surrounding the successful implementation of a technology project that are more relatable to leaders and should be emphasized over the technical details of OCM in this setting.  These include the achievement of project goals as stated in a Project Charter document.  In addition, effective use of OCM will enhance the time management of the project team and thus the budgetary alignment of the project as initially planned or scoped. We know from years of survey data collected from CM practitioners that when change management effectiveness is considered “excellent”, projects experience a six-fold increase as compared to “poor” efforts in meeting or exceeding stated objectives. Finally, the organization has a much higher probability of seeing their return on investment in a project when the application of OCM practices are used in conjunction with conventional project management principles.

A positive response from engaged leadership related to the application of OCM should resemble a dialogue such as “what do you need from me to make this happen?” as opposed to “all of this sounds good, but we have a budget for the project giveaways.”  The desired outcome of the discussion will be a commitment from leadership to adequately staff and fund both the project management and organizational change management teams.  This commitment will provide the organization undergoing change with the ability to successfully negotiate the change on the initial attempt without fear of complete or partial failure.  A leadership sponsor will want to be assured that the efforts of both teams (PM and CM) will complement each other and prepare the end-users to make the change successfully and sustain that change in the future state. In an upcoming article, the use of various exercises and techniques will be covered as they relate to the actual practice of applying change management activities to projects.

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Chris Spencer


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