What is OCM?
The purpose of OCM is to bring an organization and its people successfully from current state to future state during significant change.
Success is generally defined as adoption of new technology and “new ways” while minimizing uncertainty, risk, and stress on the organization. Often, significant digital transformations also shift an organization’s culture and mindset. For example, introducing end-to-end platforms and automation shifts users who are accustomed to repetitive, labor-intensive tasks to optimized ways of working. It frees capacity up to manage exceptions and tasks of greater importance and value.
What is the goal of OCM?
OCM prepares an organization for “what’s coming.” It lays out a way forward: for the organization, business units, teams and employees. In doing so, it involves people in and with the change, rather than letting change happen to them. That, in turn, creates engagement, buy-in, and a coalition that feels empowered. Such a shared mindset and a sense of agency provide a strong foundation to overcome the inevitable barriers by focusing on learning something new together with support and understanding.
Why is that so important?
Adoption! That’s the goal of every change program, right? However, adoption can only be measured at project completion, and we can’t really wait until the end to see if “it worked.” A focus on change has to be an integral part of the transformation program, and I would argue, ideally starts even before it kicks off.
There is the direct project success: A subset of the stakeholders will be critical contributors. We want them fully engaged, not worried about or threatened by change, which inevitably results in reluctance, resistance, and potentially even counteracting the program.
In our age of talent crunch, we don’t really have to point out the obvious: do we really want to risk our own talent that is instrumental to our organization? Do we really want to leave it to chance?
Looking ahead, we want all stakeholders to see themselves in the “future state” with a clear role, and a positive one at that. It’s their career, their livelihood. And to be sure, this includes leaders and managers as well.
Change Management effectiveness is directly correlated with meeting program objectives, staying on schedule and on budget. Need hard data? Studies show that OCM reduces uncertainty and risk at a project level, and transformations with OCM are:
- Five times more likely to stay on or ahead of schedule.
- 1.5 times as likely to stay on or under budget.
- Seven times more likely to be successful than those without.
I believe the true impact is on the human side. Technology transformations can be critical game changers. But it’s the people who are in that game, who are expected to produce that critical shift through technology. Typically, the new technology gets most of the attention, but we need to be equally invested in employees to create a true change culture, for this program and, quite frankly, for our work culture.
What are some of the misconceptions about OCM?
Some of the statements we still hear exemplify that:
“There’ll be training before we go live.“ – Training is certainly an important part, but employees’ receptiveness to that training, and the pending change, is likely influenced long before that.
“Change happens, deal with it.“ – That’s leaving an awful lot to chance when stakes are high. Not to mention places the responsibility to “deal with it” on the employee alone.
“If our employees don’t like it (the new system), we’ll just hire new ones who do.“ – This viewpoint misses the impact disengaged employees or detractors can have on a project and on productivity overall. It discounts that new employees require significant ramp-up time to be fully productive and ignores losing the institutional knowledge that exits with the talent.
“OCM is just feel good, soft stuff ….we don’t really need that.“ – I suspect these impressions can be linked to a lack of or poor experiences with change. For example, communications that were not effective, not viewed as genuine, and not backed up by actions or efforts that were misplaced or felt awkward.
What are actual OCM activities?
A skilled OCM team relies on a strong framework, techniques and tools, deep transformation experience, and personality traits and style that encourage trust, transparency, empathy, and fosters alignment. The framework consists of three phases: prepare for, manage, and sustain change.
Preparing for OCM begins by understanding the reasons for the planned change and determining what the future state and success look like. Both the nature and context of the planned change are of course situational. What is the complexity of the product? Which population is impacted? Will the future state require changes in roles or teams? What resources and capacity exist in-house to manage and support change? What is the culture and maturity of the organization?
Business context, stakeholder analysis, and change impact and readiness assessments are core activities. The outcome is a comprehensive OCM Plan that represents the “human workstream” in the overall transformation program. The OCM team is part of the program leadership team and is tightly aligned with the core changes and outcomes.
Managing change focuses on executing the components of the plan: carrying out the communications plan that keeps stakeholders informed with relevant content, building their awareness and engagement; working closely with the process teams to map future state processes; assessing skills to design robust training content; selecting the best training modes to deliver that content. Again, this is contextual to each organization. Will the future state have such an impact that roles, teams and operational structures should be redesigned? How can program sponsors and champions be most effective? Where are barriers detected that need to be overcome? The overall change effort process should be constantly measured and adjusted.
Sustaining change, of course, builds on the preceding work and continues past go live. The target “future state” becomes the new “current state” once it is fully operationalized. A successful transition and adoption can be measured. More importantly, are the envisioned outcomes achieved? Are the new tools and processes delivering more efficiency, better data quality, cost and time savings? Are they transforming operations? Celebrating and rewarding success is key, and so is tuning OCM processes and making them part and parcel of all change initiatives.
The good news: the data speaks for itself and OCM is becoming an increasingly consistent component of transformation efforts. I am incredibly grateful for the work of all the OCM practitioners and advocates out there who have done phenomenal work to integrate our craft into more change efforts.
Where we can lean in: OCM is not rocket science, it is people science and behavior. Common sense and quite obvious, yet totally challenging. One final misconception: “We build it (technology) and they will come.” I am convinced that the “people stuff” is the actual foundation of major change. It is contextual, nuanced, behavioral. Human. Worth the effort and energy, always.