Organizational Change Management Is Dead

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: February 16, 2019

I have been afraid to admit this, but I think I have known it for a while: organizational change management is dead.

This is particularly hard to admit since I grew up in the consulting world as an organizational change management consultant. After 20 years of doing something I love, it is becoming painfully clear that something has to change.

Case study: The Fortune 500 company that “rejected change management like a virus”

This week I spoke with a long-term client who was struggling with how handle their organizational change efforts in their ongoing Oracle Cloud ERP implementation plan. They shared how they had “rejected change management like a virus” because it wasn’t working for them. It had gotten to the point that the company was even resisting the term “organizational change management” because it has such a negative connotation.

This may sound like a disaster waiting to happen, but I realized that they are on to something. The problem isn’t with the need for organizational change management, but with the way that their large Oracle system integrator and others had tried to introduce change management into their organization.

This one case study alone isn’t enough for me to proclaim that change management is dead, but it was a capstone moment. It was a conversation that summarized so many of the problematic organizational change issues that I have observed throughout my career.

Cookie cutter change management does not work

The first realization is that cookie cutter organizational change management doesn’t work. It is good to use PROSCI’s organizational change framework and other toolsets as starting points, but they need to be tailored for a company’s culture, operations, and people. It also needs to go beyond general organizational change management tactics (for example, basic communications and training). This is much easier said than done, which is why even organizational change experts often fail at this important detail.

Organizational change management should be integrated into your company’s DNA

Organizational change management is too often a standalone team with its own organizational change management plan. On the one hand, it is good to have a team focused on this critical success factor. On the other hand, effective organizational change should be part of everyone’s job – not just a select few. Your executives, team leads, key stakeholders, and others need to fully embrace and bake organizational change into everything they do.

Your team needs to own organizational change management

It may be tempting to outsource change to organizational change management consultants. This is a terrible idea. Change management consultants can help provide a general framework, toolsets, and overall guidance, but your team needs to own it. Your team needs to be the “face” of change. They have much more credibility than outside consultants – and they will be able to build more sustainable change competencies into the organization.

You still need an effective organizational change management structure, best practices, and plan!

None of this is to say that it is okay to shoot from the hip and manage change if or where you have time. You absolutely should have a structured approach, a toolset tailored for your company, and outside coaching and guidance to help you build this internal change competency. There is no substitute for good organizational change experts that can tailor an approach and give you the guidance you need. You just don’t want to be over-dependent on these consultants.

Begin by defining your organizational change strategy

The key is to define an organizational change strategy to set you on the right course. This strategy and plan should define how you will address the above pitfalls and mistakes. Done effectively, organizational change should be a non-issue that minimizes risk and delivers a measurable ROI to your organization.

Feel free to contact me to schedule a video conference to bounce around ideas on how you might define an effective org change strategy for your transformation. I am happy to help!

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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