Organizational Change Management: The New Mainstream

Posted on 02 May 2014

For over a decade, PM Solutions CEO J. Kent Crawford has been offering project management leaders who attend his courses on PMO implementation and management an overview of how Organizational Change Management (OCM) fits into the PMO. And, for years, he sensed that attendees did not really see the value of that information. “People would start checking their emails,” he says wryly. Nowadays when it comes to OCM, however, he sees a trend towards the adoption of change management as an integral part of PMO practices.

At the PMI Global Congress in Vancouver (2012) Crawford encountered, for the first time, a PMO director whose company assigns dedicated OCM resources to every large project (see interview in sidebar). More recently, another class participant told him, “there is an OCM element in every project plan on every project we do.”

This is a trend that Crawford’s organization has been hoping to see take off for over a decade. “In 2003 we invited Prosci to present a session on OCM to our PM Benchmarking Forum; today, Prosci is actively seeking to link PM and OCM.” PM Solutions’ own practice includes a strong OCM component, one that has recently been described in detail by consultant/blogger Allen Young on the company’s “Strategy & Projects” blog.

“It’s a fun time to be involved in OCM but the application of it is very sporadic,” says Crawford. “Most project management leaders do not have that much experience with it. I’d say that perhaps 1 or 2 out of 30 in a class have OCM experience. Those that do, have a change manager, or a couple of people who are OCM specialists. They may be deployed on every large project or only on those major initiatives that involve cultural change.”

Even those who are deeply committed to using OCM as a method to improve project and program outcomes, says Crawford, too often become so involved in the functional aspects of the change that they forget to investigate the motivating factors that will fully engage stakeholders in the change initiative. “What’s in it for me?” Crawford cautions, is a question that VPs, functional directors, and individual stakeholders must all answer.

“Change is always part of what we do, but as project managers, we often are focused elsewhere.” But that focus is shifting. “These days, I do normally have that one person in a group who will raise his hand and say, ‘Every project we execute creates change, and OCM is an integral part of our practice.’ This is helping to promote OCM among, at least, these groups because hearing about the importance of OCM from their peers has more clout and relevance than simply hearing about it from me.”

A Building Wave of OCM Maturity
From the consulting perspective, this new interest in OCM is a welcome one. “When, for example, we help a company establish a PMO, we assess the current state, then design an implementation roadmap taking into account the OCM component. We investigate who the champions are, and who are the detractors.” Especially with detractors, says Crawford, it is important to understand and integrate their views, as they may be expressing very crucial but overlooked issues.

Most importantly, Crawford cautions that, when using OCM to manage the people side of change initiatives, you can’t expect a linear progression. “When you start applying OCM on projects, it’s more like a wave: understanding and acceptance builds, collects, then you may reach a brief plateau; but it builds again, as issues are addressed. If you picture it that way, it is reminiscent of our maturity model; and, just like progressing against the maturity model, practitioners of OCM find that the application of it should be scalable to the needs of the project or the organization.”

by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin



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