Organizational Change Management and the Barber

Written By: Brian Potts
Date: September 26, 2018

I recently talked with a company who is planning to bring their Organizational Change Management (OCM) efforts for their digital transformation 100% in-house. Can this really be done? The answer is yes, it can be done, but the results will be similar to cutting your own hair.

Organizational change management is the #1 key to digital transformation success. But a lot of organizations don’t know how to best address this critical need.

Certain aspects of your organizational change management plan absolutely should be driven from within. Change and process ownership, messaging and communications are not nearly as effective when they come from an outside organization and should be done from within the organization realizing the change. These on-going efforts would be comparable to washing and conditioning your hair; They need to be done consistently and are best managed internally.

On the other end, tasks like designing a change program, assessing readiness and alignment are more in line with changing your overall appearance, cutting your hair or getting it styled. Most people don’t have the ability to see their entire head of hair from a third-party perspective, nor do they have the tools or skills needed. Even if you’re going bald and only have a few hairs or system users, those that are left need to be treated carefully.

Many organizations will consider hiring an internal resource to manage change. Let’s assume you find a rock star, trained through multiple programs, PROSCI certified with years of experience. It’s still comparable a trained stylist trying to cut her own hair. She may have the toolset, multiple mirrors, a cool chair and know how to cut hair, but when it’s your own there are still unique challenges. Consider two areas specifically where change cannot realistically be managed from within:

Organizational Readiness:

This is where the culture of the organization comes into play and users need to be evaluated as to their position on change. If surveys and focus groups are run internally, you WILL NOT get accurate results.

Let me state this again:

This approach will not work. Any change agent, program manager, etc. is hired and managed by the same people wanting this program to succeed. Users know this and will act accordingly. When asked for their input, most users will not want to rock the boat as there is enough uncertainty already. Even if they are told that openness is appreciated, you will not get accurate representation of the true temperature for change across the organization.

Executive Alignment:

This is one of the toughest areas to measure, as executives that have come to agreement that a digital transformation or ERP initiative is necessary will assume they are aligned. Any change manager that reports to the executive team is going to have a very difficult time measuring and convincing them otherwise.

The most common occurrence is that this incredibly important change task is overlooked or skipped, and initiatives proceed with some level of misunderstanding or misalignment at the top of the organization. Far more common than most people realize. Even system integrators such as Deloitte, Accenture, and Capgemini aren’t typically strong in these areas.

Next time you decide you need a haircut, or are looking at a technology initiative, think twice before trying to do it on your own. If you do, you’re more than likely going to miss a spot. The difference is, hair grows back much quicker than a failed ERP implementation.

Brian Potts

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