Organizational Change Management (OCM) is a fascinating topic, mainly due to the fact that there are still a large number of organizations in 2014 that do not understand its importance. I have witnessed this first hand with organizations in Canada as well as in the UK and France.
An OCM team works with a Project Manager to plan and implement change processes that support the human and organizational aspects of a project based on an OCM strategy. The OCM plan should be incorporated in the overall project plan rather than being executed separately. OCM focuses on activities that:
- Increase readiness for the change.
- Minimize project risks.
- Accelerate organizational and staff adoption of the change.
An OCM strategy should be developed in conjunction with the Business to provide a high level view of typical OCM activities and outline the related plans (e.g., sponsorship, communication, resistance management, coaching and optimization plans). The OCM strategy should also incorporate best practices.
A few years ago, I was fortunate to be involved in a Healthcare program that had a dedicated OCM Manager and OCM team. The Ambulatory Program involved the implementation of an electronic scheduling system in approximately 150 clinics. The main goal was to provide a common platform for patients’ referral and scheduling management, while enabling timely access to the information. Prior to the roll-out, the majority of the clinics were conducting their work manually, using Excel spreadsheets and other manual tools.
Consider for a moment, the reaction and/or resistance of some clinical staff who had never used a computer in their life. For many of those only a few years away from retirement, the idea of switching to an electronic system at this stage of their professional life was quite daunting to say the least. Other forms of anxiety due to change in projects is not unusual.
The approach adopted for that multi-year project entailed:
1. Defining Opportunities:
- Ensuring the Project Sponsors were fully engaged and visible to the stakeholders.
- Assessing the clinic’s capacity for change and business readiness.
- Identifying the stakeholders (the ones supporting the change, the ones on the “fence” and those resisting the change).
- Developing a communication strategy to help build understanding of the change and how it is achieved through different phases.
2. Building Understanding:
- Conducting a readiness assessment for each clinic or group of clinics and analyzing the results.
- Creating a communication plan to include audience types (vehicles, timing, responsibility).
- Developing a resistance management plan and morale plan.
- Identifying opportunities for improvement (OFIs) based on the clinics’ pain points.
- Developing a training plan using different approaches.
3. Acting to Improve:
- Redesigning processes (future state workflows).
- Documenting gaps between present and future state.
- Implementing go-live support strategy.
4. Sustaining Results:
- Tracking and monitoring the Opportunities for Improvement (OFIs) to ensure they are achieved and sustained.
- Evaluating the effectiveness of the OCM activities through regular feedback.
- Carrying out a post implementation review with each clinic or group of clinics.
For the clinical staff who were quite anxious to switch to an electronic scheduling system, we organized a session to gain a better understanding of their concern – which turned out to be computer illiteracy. “Seek to understand” becomes an essential skill when dealing with people preparing or going through change. To set them up for success, we agreed to organize some computer classes prior to the implementation to increase their comfort level. Their anxiety gradually turned into acceptance and support of the change – this alone was quite rewarding.
No matter what the industry is, people remain the most important asset of any given organization. It is unreasonable to expect employees to “simply adapt,” given the amount and complexity of the changes organizations undertake.
As consultants, we play an important role in helping our clients accept and embrace changes. My hope is that one day an increasing number of organizations will have proper OCM teams and processes in place to support their employees through change. It took several years for Business Analysis to gain its own well-deserved recognition, and there is now an opportunity to achieve the same with Organizational Change Management.