3 Myths about Organizational Change Management

Most technology initiatives designed to create change inside of organizations fail when they are evaluated against their expected business benefit. […]

By zivaro|August 25, 2016|0 Comments

Most technology initiatives designed to create change inside of organizations fail when they are evaluated against their expected business benefit. While such projects are usually able to deliver their “product” (e.g., an ERP system), they often fail because they are unable to “change the operational DNA” of the environment.

The business value of change management is this – companies often justify technology investments by developing business cases. There’s an implicit assumption in every business case that’s along the lines of, “our business community will use the new ways of working (the technology, the processes, the governance framework, etc.) as it’s designed.” You’ll probably never see this assumption written down, but it’s there.

Unfortunately, most IT professionals know this doesn’t turn out to be the case. While IT initiatives are often successful at getting the “system” up and running, we often don’t see it used as we thought it would be, and as a result, don’t achieve the expected business benefits.

Before joining GTRI, I worked with a client that had implemented a large piece of technology. After the project was complete, they discovered that it was taking their staff much longer to get things done, and while they knew this was the result of the technology implementation (which, in fact, was done well), they didn’t know what specifically was wrong so they couldn’t figure out how to fix the situation. It turned out that they had focused exclusively on the technology implementation and did not invest any energy into things like process redesign, role redefinition, re-skilling and organizational redesign – all of which change management addresses and all of which should have been completed during implementation of the technology.

What is Organizational Change Management?

Organizational Change Management (OCM) is a framework for managing the effect of new business processes, changes in organizational structure or cultural changes within an enterprise. Simply put, OCM addresses the people side of change management.

Multiple research studies have shown that the majority of major issues on transformation projects (67% – 75% depending on the study) are due to people and change management issues, not software or technical problems. In another study, 90% of the respondents who included change management initiatives in their projects estimated the impact of change management on project success as “very high” or “high.”

Yet change management is still treated by many project teams as a “nice to do” or overlooked entirely. It’s likely that these teams don’t really understand OCM. Let me debunk a few of what I consider to be several myths associated with change management.

Myth #1- Technology Equals Transformation

First, technology implementation does not result in transformational change. Yes, if done correctly, it does provide new tools. But, by itself, it doesn’t change how work gets done or how decisions get made. In fact, research has shown that, in hindsight, leaders of technology implementations that were supposed to result in transformation wished that they had done more work around change management. They won’t make this same mistake twice – learn from them!

Myth #2 – Change Management is Just Good Communication and Training

Second, effective change management is more than communications and training. Yes, both of these disciplines are needed, but they should be thought of only as components of change management – they don’t equate to it. Change management is both an art and a science, with many strategic and tactical facets required to achieve success.

Myth #3 – Consultants will manage the Change

Third, change management is not something that consultants can just “do” for clients. (Isn’t this a shocking statement for a career consultant to make?) Consultants can do things like help establish change strategy, develop role descriptions, build communications and develop training, but the most effective change management teams are those that are comprised of both clients and consultants. Client team members, including executives, are crucial to the change team.  They know how to get things done throughout the organization and how to communicate with stakeholders, and they have the ability to remove obstacles.

Organizational Ownership

So, what should an organization do? Develop what I call “organizational ownership” of the change. Recognize that few (if any!) technology initiatives are only about technology. They affect people and the way they work. Change often creates angst throughout an organization, and this angst is magnified when users feel like “IT is doing this ‘to’ me (as opposed to ‘with’ me)” or “IT is doing this and they don’t have enough understanding about the way I work.”

My concept of “organizational ownership” is just what it sounds like – getting the whole organization to demonstrate a collective sense of ownership of the change. While OCM is often thought of as a combination of communications and training, creating “organizational ownership” proves to be a much more effective way of driving widespread adoption of the new ways of working (aka, the change). For example, when a change initiative results in new job roles, it is important that HR participate in their definition and help establish the roles’ objectives.

There are no silver bullets. Driving change is hard. Making it “part of the fabric” (just the way work gets done) of operations is even harder. If you would like to know more about how your organization can use change management to improve the success rate of your transformational initiatives, I’ll be doing a webinar this fall. Keep an eye on GTRI’s Events page for details.

Steve Mollen is an Account Executive at GTRI.

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