Why Organizational Change Management Is So Frustrating

Written By: Brian Potts
Date: March 5, 2020

We recently published an article entitled Organizational Change Management is Dead. While the “death” of a practice may be extreme, we hear terms ranging from monotony, frustration, disgust and even hatred when referring to the concept of OCM.

Why is this? Everyone acknowledges and nobody questions the importance of managing change during a digital transformation, yet few people actually want to deal with it.

What leads to the frustration boils down to are a few key concepts that need to be addressed:

True organizational change cannot come from a template

There are simply no OCM methodologies that you can plug into an ERP implementation or digital transformation. There are toolsets such as PROSCI and models such as Kotter’s, but these tools and models mean nothing without effective execution. And execution cannot be standardized. OCM deals with humans, and human beings are complex. We all react differently to stimuli; we learn and communicate in different ways and our motives are purely personal. Navigating human interaction, communication and change requires a very unique skillset.

Many Organizational Change Management Consultants are unusual birds

We mentioned above that this type of consulting requires exceptional talent, but with talent also comes burden. For those familiar with Van Halen’s infamous 53-page backstage rider including restrictions surrounding brown M&Ms, while not as excessive, many change management consultants come with their own quirks. Besides high billing rates, their expectations surrounding comfortable workspace, availability and flexibility of staff and 9-5 working hours do not always align with the reality of a digital initiative.

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Change management is not a standalone workstream

If you research Organizational Change Management methodologies or toolsets, you will find they state to bring an approach to integrate with any number of change initiatives including systems, business expansion, M&A events, new product lines, workforce reduction, etc. We have seen time and time again that this simply does not work in the case of an ERP, HCM or other type of digital transformation.

OCM cannot ride on a separate horse and needs to inherently build into and be owned by the project plan. This requires your change consultant(s) to have an understanding of digital transformation and be able to connect the change tools and workstreams to align with the technology implementation.

As a side note, we have recently seen several of the large system integration firms fall flat on their faces by selling this messaging to clients. Just because a technology group brings “OCM Methodology” to the table does not mean they actually understand or can implement change.

Organizational change management is too often a theoretical exercise

We hear this one more than any other. OCM consultants are purely theoretical and talk a good game, but rarely produce anything tangible. We still hear reference to OCM as holding hands, singing songs together and crying on each other’s shoulders. This is a sore point with the change management industry. Here’s a hint: It will always start out this way, but the stronger consultants will show how they can bring measurable benefit to your digital transformation.

This topic is a passion of mine and I would welcome the opportunity to share more ideas. Please contact me with any questions or needs.

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