Five Things I Learned Today About Organizational Change Management [OCM]

This morning I hosted a gathering of senior resources from local banks, insurance companies, retail organizations and others that we call the Enterprise Project Management Office Executive Forum held at the Schulich Executive Education Centre, York University in Toronto.


This is a monthly gathering of people interested in topics pertaining to enterprise project issues. Today’s meeting was about organizational change management (OCM). Now I must admit that I wasn’t, by any stretch, the expert in the room. In fact, far from it. That’s why I invited my friend Lesa Berec to present and facilitate the ongoing discussion.


Here is what I learned today about organizational change management.


change management

1. It’s complicated. What is OCM? Where does it belong? Who is responsible? Is it a part of our project management life cycle or a separate stream completely independent? Is it so important? These are all questions that today’s attendees are struggling with now or have struggled with within parts of their organizations in the not so distant past. It’s complicated because, even if a few of us figured it all out it is still hard to sell it in the field. (This sounded a lot to me like project management in IT back in 1997!). It’s complicated because we are dealing with varying degrees of misunderstanding, lack of interest and or a lack of education.


2. Change Management needs to be tied to business benefits. Stakeholder satisfaction, user adaption and ROI are all key components to Change Management. And these are all business benefits. Change can only be sold and promoted when it is tied directly to business benefits. Change without this connection does not work.


3. Everyone needs to understand it and buy in. I love the phrase “The Key is to Know What You Don’t Know” and this is exactly what one of the organizations said as they rolled out OCM training to every project manager and business analyst. Just 1 – 2 days. They don’t need to be experts but they do need to understand it.


And then the Executive Sponsors – a ½ day for every one of them! How to be a sponsor? What is expected from them? What they should expect from the project managers. And everything they need to understand about OCM!


And then the executive team. They really don’t get it either. Honestly. One of our participants quoted a Forbes survey that suggested that more executives are fired for their inability to manage change than for any other reason. Everyone needs to understand.


4. Change Management belongs in the business. For OCM to work it needs to start with and stay with the business side of the house and not IT. The business establishes business benefits, assesses the risks and establishes the portfolio of work to be done.


5. Change Management cannot be a separate stream from the project methodology. It needs to be embedded from the start to the finish and beyond. It should start at the strategic plan or at least at the portfolio development. Get the sponsor on board right at outset and make OCM a part of the whole life cycle of the project. And very importantly, change management teams need a position of authority within the project life cycle.


This is what I learned today about Organizational Change Management. It was a great meeting and a real education for me. Are you a change management disciple? I am thinking you might want to be.


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