Getting back on track when OCM goes wrong
You don’t have to be an expert in Organizational Change Management (OCM) to recognize when OCM goes wrong. It becomes painfully obvious very quickly as disengagement sets in and the rumor mill starts to churn with misinformation and misalignment. Lack of OCM or poor OCM almost always guarantees stakeholder resistance that can bring a project or transformation to the brink of disaster. How you get back on track after things get derailed?
First, it’s important to look at why things go wrong – recognizing common missteps can often save you from going too far down the wrong path and will reduce course correction frustration that happens when you wait too long to make important interventions that will save your program and put you on the path to success.
Top Reasons OCM Goes Wrong
1. Lack of sponsor involvement – is perhaps the number one reason why projects fail. You can have the most experienced OCM leader in the world, but if you don't have C-suite support for your project or transformation, you will most likely fail. Committed and involved sponsors who can help guide the organization are essential for creating and maintaining a culture of change. Experienced OCM leaders know how to work with and coach sponsors, creating an effective sponsorship plan that will enable them to put their best foot forward by participating in the right activities and communications that will guide and support the transformation or implementation.
2. Getting OCM involved too late in the process – is like starting a race hours after the rest of your competitors leave the starting gate. OCM should be involved early and often. The “discovery” period that happens early in the project cycle includes important discussions that solidify the who, what, when, where and why of the project, details that will ultimately inform the communications and the full OCM strategy. The early phase of the project is also an opportunity for OCM to conduct appropriate readiness assessments to determine where the current stakeholders fall on the change curve.
3. Spending too much time on analytics – is a waste of time and money. While it’s important to perform some initial assessments to understand the state of the organization and perception about the project, it’s not necessary to spend endless weeks and months interviewing stakeholders, conducting surveys and performing OCM assessments that only increase the budget and utilize precious resources. Unfortunately, I’ve seen numerous situations where clients sign on with inexperienced consultants who spend endless hours on this type of preliminary work. OCM is an agile function and experienced practitioners should be able to assess the situation fairly quickly and create an OCM work plan that makes sense for the project and the impacted stakeholders.
4. Withholding information – from OCM because it’s too technical or not directly related to the OCM process. I once worked with a technical lead on a project who simply refused to share information with me or explain any of the technical aspects of the project. Big mistake. It’s important to remember that OCM practitioners generally work with a variety of business areas and can have varying levels of technical expertise when it comes to IT (after all, not all OCM projects have a technical or system aspect). IT leaders who don’t take the time to share technical information with other disciplines usually go down with the ship when stakeholders fail to understand what they need to do.
5. Unrealistic timelines – put projects in jeopardy by creating a situation that simply can’t be resolved. While no one wants delays or late starts, it’s important to ensure that your project is properly scoped and that resources are in place prior to starting work. I have interfaced with many potential clients who want to start work on large projects with little or no pre-planning. When resources and timelines are too short, it's time for a reality check. Introducing the concept of phased planning or the addition of a pre-planning phase enables time to regroup and better assess what will be needed for long-term project success.
It’s important to remember when you find yourself a bit derailed, it’s not a death sentence for the project. It simply means you will need to work closely with your OCM team to catch up on key foundational work and to better align expectations moving forward.