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Organizational Change Management: Game Changer or Flavor of the day?

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Organizational Change Management: Game Changer or Flavor of the day?

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This abstract reflects some of the practical challenges organizations undergoing business and information technology (IT) transformations face in today’s rapidly changing environment. When organizations embark on these large-scale initiatives, increasingly they are adding organizational change management (OCM) to the mix. This is, perhaps, an acknowledgement that previous initiatives have not met the mark because the people side of change was underestimated or not factored in.

This abstract reflects some of the practical challenges organizations undergoing business and information technology (IT) transformations face in today’s rapidly changing environment. When organizations embark on these large-scale initiatives, increasingly they are adding organizational change management (OCM) to the mix. This is, perhaps, an acknowledgement that previous initiatives have not met the mark because the people side of change was underestimated or not factored in.

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Organizational Change Management: Game Changer or Flavor of the day?

  1. 1. Abstract OCM: Game Changer or Flavor of the Day? Page 1 of 4 Introduction This abstract reflects some of the practical challenges organizations undergoing business and information technology (IT) transformations face in today’s rapidly changing environment. When organizations embark on these large-scale initiatives, increasingly they are adding organizational change management (OCM) to the mix. This is, perhaps, an acknowledgement that previous initiatives have not met the mark because the people side of change was underestimated or not factored in. Now that OCM has a consistent place at the table, the microscope is focused on the value it adds. It is not uncommon for OCM to be invited late to the game—brought in when a project hits a wall for a quick save. Even when OCM is included at the outset, there may be confusion about its role and value. It’s not uncommon for sponsors to scapegoat OCM for a project’s failure because of a lack of communications or training. Like any emerging discipline, OCM is cutting its teeth and earning its place at the table. When it works, it can be a game changer—a critical success factor for transformations. And when a project goes sideways, it can be one of many things that gets in the way of people adopting and driving a solution. So is OCM a game changer? When a project succeeds, is it the result of calculated planning or plain old luck? What’s the best way to make sure change sticks? These are some of the questions this abstract endeavors to answer. What makes change work? 1. Get the right sponsors and keep them engaged  How many projects have you worked on where you were assured the sponsor was excited to be onboard and was committed to being active and visible? How did it really play out?  Sponsorship is one of the most critical success factors in creating change that works. If you don’t have that in place, save yourself time, resources and frustration and stop right there. And when we say in place, we mean onboard, excited, committed and ready to look you in the whites of the eye to do what needs to be done to rally the troops across the finish line.  We often mention sponsors in the project charter—usually a senior leader or executive— and then we forget them. Or they forget us. Be clear what you want this person to do. Ask them how they see their role. Be realistic. There is a difference between leading and managing. It’s hard for sponsors to be active and visible if they’re in the trenches balancing budgets and worrying about gates. Do they have the time, the energy, the understanding to be a sponsor? Do they want to do this or has it been foisted upon them? Do they believe in Organizational Change Management: Game Changer or Flavor of the Day?
  2. 2. Abstract OCM: Game Changer or Flavor of the Day? Page 2 of 4 the project? Can they create a vision for where the project will take the organization and what success looks like?  Before launching a project: o Get agreement on the value and priority. Is this one of many projects they’re juggling? Be frank about the challenges. Ask how they would like to work together. Experience shows sponsorship succeeds when the OCM or communications specialists have direct access to the sponsor. Ask if they’re open to feedback and coaching. o Pick the right people, confirm expectations and get commitment. You might not be able to get them to sign in blood but you do want documentation that outlines their roles and responsibilities and yours o Do regular sponsorship checks. Make sure you communicate often and are aligned throughout the journey. It’s not uncommon for longer projects to change scope due to technical or organizational constraints. How does this affect the sponsor and what is expected of him/her? 2. Involve people early in the game  The more you understand the current state, the better you’ll be able to make recommendations to manage the change. So take the time to identify existing pain points. Surveys are fine but don’t underestimate the power of a face-to-face meeting. Make time to talk with people and ask them their perspective. This will help set realistic expectations and identify potential pitfalls. The sooner you know where the project might stumble, the sooner you can develop mitigating strategies.  Err on the side of including people sooner and more often. Working in silos when designing solutions means you might not have the right people engaged at the right time. Don’t work in the dark. Involve people who can influence and create excitement around the target state.  Never assume—even when we think we know what people want or need. Let the people doing the job or using the solution tell you what’s important and meaningful to them. Engage them early, often and well and you’re creating some early supporters who may be critical to bringing other less enthusiastic folks along.  It’s easy to talk high-level business value—it’s right up there with motherhood and apple pie. Fluffy high-level statements don’t mean anything to people doing the actual work and it often does more to turn them off than tune them in. Be concrete. What’s really in it for them? Be specific. Give them details. And if you don’t know, let them speak with someone who does. 3. Training is important but it isn’t everything  The best training in the world won’t solve a poor design. Keeping end-users involved while designing the solution means fewer surprises when you get closer to go-live. It will also make developing the training easier and less costly because everyone knows what needs to
  3. 3. Abstract OCM: Game Changer or Flavor of the Day? Page 3 of 4 be trained and why. End-users who know the solution can be your best advocate. Keeping them engaged throughout the process means you’re developing realistic use cases that drive the design.  Sure, an OCM resource pool can develop a fancy self-learning video or great reference guide. This effort may be wasted if people don’t have the desire or time to use them. Ask users how they like to learn and what has worked for them in the past. Ask them what it would take to make training on the solution a priority for themselves and their co-workers.  If your gut tells you the training is getting complicated and cumbersome, listen and act. Chances are it’s an indication the solution is complicated and cumbersome too—and no amount of training is going to make it simple, straightforward and successful. 4. Too much analysis can result in paralysis  We’re all guilty of overthinking—what do we do if A happens? Or B? It’s easy to go down rabbit holes analyzing and strategizing what might be. Pay attention but don’t get caught in it. Resistance and roadblocks are par for the course for any change management initiative. Keep your OCM efforts realistic and the right size for the project. Adjust when needed.  Analysis helps you understand who is being affected by the change and how. It’s also a great way to reach out to those impacted. These often untapped resources can provide insight and support from start to finish—if we invited them in and make them part of the process.  Perspective is everything. Sometime a cause of resistance may seem way bigger than it is. Everybody has bad days. Give people the benefit of the doubt and assume people come from a place of good intent. Instead of endless email chains or backdoor chatter, invite people for coffee a candid conversation. You might be surprised what you learn! Conclusion Is OCM a game changer or just another nice to have—something organizations begrudgingly know they should do? As noted earlier, OCM is finding its groove—and when it works, there is no doubt it contributes to more successful outcomes. OCM can be a game changer if organizations see it more broadly than communications and training. If OCM has a mandate to get key stakeholders aligned and engaged early in the journey, people will be part of the change. In our experience, there are several factors that drive adoption and use of a solution. These include:  Active participation and visible sponsors who know why they’re there and what they need to do. It helps if they are good communicators and allow you to work with them directly rather than relying on other conduits.  Engage the people who are doing the work and who are accountable for the work to be a part of the solution/change. Commit to keeping them informed and engaged throughout the process.  Focus on what value the change is adding and how it will make people’s work easier/better/less stressful/more fun. We all need to know what’s in it for me!
  4. 4. Abstract OCM: Game Changer or Flavor of the Day? Page 4 of 4  Communications and training are important but timing is everything. Communicate or train too early and you might be asking for a redo; too late (after design and development are done) and you’ll have a hard time getting people caught up. What’s the best way to make change stick?  There is no magic solution or secret sauce. Active and visible sponsorship is critical. So is engaging people early and often.  Different things work for different people, industries, cultures and businesses. Talk to colleagues; check out resources. Learn from others.  Be honest and straightforward about the change and how people will be affected. Don’t sugarcoat things and don’t blow them out of proportion.  Keep it real. You’ll lose credibility and get resistance if you make up stories, use too many big words and exaggerate benefits. About the Authors LeeAnne Klein is an organizational change management professional with more than 10 years of experience leading cross-functional teams, teaching, training, conducting research and analysis, re-engineering processes, and implementing and leading change initiatives. Deepak Babbar is a management consultant and organizational change management specialist with global experience in leading and executing large-scale change initiatives. He is currently working with Tata Consultancy Services’ Global Consulting Practice. Pam Brandt is a communications specialist who has been part of many organizational initiatives in the corporate, not-for-profit and governmental sectors. She specializes in working with new and transforming organizations.

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