Project success with Organizational Change Management (OCR)

Prepare for three camps in your communications
Prepare for three camps in your communications

This article has been contributed by Mike DePolis, ITSM Practice Lead at Fruition Partners

Organizations that are undertaking an ITSM initiative all too often leave out the centerpiece of success, or merely give lip service to it. Whether your organization is undertaking improvement of a single process, an entire transformational change, or even an ITSM tool replacement, Organizational Change Management (OCM) is that centerpiece to success.

In this article I will lay out some of the most important aspects and actions to consider for an OCM effort in your organization. These high level topic areas will be further expounded up in later articles.

Every project I’ve seen where OCM is a dedicated work stream, with thoughtful attention paid to it, has been extremely successful. Most of the failed projects I’ve encountered have either had no OCM component, or gave it a superficial nod in the beginning of the project, then quickly put such activities on the back burner.

At a high level, communication, training, and marketing are at the core of OCM, but there are other very important activities that should be considered.

Organizational Assessment

Even though you know your organization, interesting details can emerge that can be of benefit to your initiative by completing an organizational assessment. Such assessments can determine your organization’s propensity for change on a detailed level. Also revealed will be the largest barriers that should be addressed through the OCM program.

The assessment will reveal how the people in your organization view the current state, the proposed future state as well as many measures to help you understand where issues could occur.

There is another very important output of the assessment, and that is to understand which changes you should make now, and which changes should wait for subsequent efforts. Change can only happen at a certain pace for a given organization and attempting too much change for the culture and current level of maturity will likely doom an effort to failure, regardless of how much care is put into OCM activities.

The Three Camps

In any change there will be three camps of people, two minority camps and one majority camp. The first minority camp will actively embrace the change and can be used to further the cause in the organization. The second minority camp will very much be against the camp, and some will likely even actively attempt to undermine the change. The majority camp (generally about half the population) will wait and watch to see what camp will win out. Target the majority camp with appropriate communications and marketing. The minority camp against the change is very unlikely to change their minds.

Assess the Change

A detailed assessment of the change should be completed to provide a rich understanding of how the change will affect the organization. Start by listing how the new state differs from current state. Then evaluate the following:

  • Who will have to be involved who wasn’t before?
  • Who was involved before and will not be now?
  • Who is more empowered or less empowered then before?
  • Which changes make things easier for people?
  • Which changes will be perceived to make things harder (for example, process or procedure where they didn’t exist before?

For each item listed determine a high, medium or low level of impact. All items on the high list will be called the “Major Shifts”.

Create the Messages

The information provided from “Assess the Change” will be an input into creating the messages. The messages are the communication bullet points to the organization about what is changing, why it is changing and the benefit of the change to the organization. Creating this list of messages will be the basis of several forms of communications in the OCM communication plan. The focus here needs to be on the Major shifts for broad communication, and on a smaller scale addressing the more minor points.

The Champions

Identify a list of champions that will actively embrace the change and can help with the project, and organizational change itself. The champions should be very interested, involved parties which will clearly fall into the minority camp that embraces the change. From spreading the word in the halls to providing team based versions of broader communications the champions are the voice for supporting the change.

Strongly consider some incentive and reward for your champions for their efforts in helping to sell and realize the change. This will help them stay engaged for longer running projects.

Top Down and Bottom Up

Everyone is aware how important it is to have executive support for ITSM improvement programs, however, organizational change efforts should be targeted to the different audiences. In addition to messages from the executive team defining the vision and providing support for the program (top down) there should also be bottom up efforts. The champions can play a key part in this messaging. As an example, think about doing lunch and learns hosted by the champions, with their peers, addressing what changes will be coming up, and explaining the benefits to them and to the organization.

Communication and Training

The very first piece of a communication and training plan should be a stakeholder analysis. Every level of the organization should be mapped (CIO, VP Level, Director Level, Mid Manager Level, Heavy Process Participant Level, Casual Process Participant Level, Customer Level).

Each of these levels should have specific training and communication plans tailored to them. These plans should include messaging to address the following areas:

  • The major shifts discussed above
  • Benefits of the change
  • What they do not need to do anymore
  • What they need to do in the future
  • How they should communicate upward, downward, and to peers

It is most beneficial to structure training to include the OCM messaging, process training, and if applicable, tool training together in a single session. Using this approach allows for the elements to be pulled together so major shifts can be related to process, and process elements can be related to any tool changes.

Get Assistance

Good Organizational Change Management relies upon well-crafted messaging that delivers the right information in precisely the right way for the organization. Utilize your organization’s existing marketing and training departments, when available, as they have the needed expertise in these areas to provide the right experience. Consider looking outside for assistance on planning and execution of a complete organizational change program that is directly tied into your ITSM program.


I like to say that ITSM (and any other) initiatives are made up of at most 20% process and 20% tool components. The carbon based units involved represent the remaining 60% of the equation. This should highlight why initiatives with a strong OCM component are so much more successful than those where OCM becomes an afterthought.

Mike DePolis is a seasoned IT leader with a strong focus on business alignment and ITIL V3 Expert certification. As the ITSM Practice Lead at Fruition Partners, Mike has vast experience heading large segments of IT departments, and helping clients improve their operations.

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