Let's first level set on Organizational Change Management (OCM). It is not Change Control which relates to changes to business, system or other technical requirements. OCM is the act of anticipating, preparing, managing, monitoring, measuring and supporting stakeholders through a transition. Regardless if that transition is large or small, technical, process, or organizationally driven.

People don't fear change. We bring change to our lives all the time. We change jobs, get married, have children, move etc. People fear and reject change that doesn't provide value to them or that they perceive as not valuable. As Project Managers, who by nature are inflicting change on an organization, you need to be prepared for your role in change management.

I submit to you that without realizing it, as an experienced Project Manager and/or PMP, you possess more knowledge than you realize to prepare you for your role in change management. Even if you have never received "formal" training in change management.

Much of change management is providing a systematic and formal approach to aspects of project management and delivery that you think about intuitively. Systematic? Formal? Words not often associated with OCM by non-practitioners.

Often we think about OCM in "warm and fuzzy" terms. I challenge that notion and assert that OCM is the nuts and bolts of your project success.

Good communication is the cornerstone of Project Management AND Change Management. But good communication is much harder than it seems on the surface. Of course there is figuring out WHAT the message is and the goal of the message which is usually to get the audience to "buy what you're selling"- usually a new process or tool.

But even more important than those two communication aspects are the timing, delivery mechanism, and understanding of the audience which makes communication effective. People need to hear things "5 times, 5 ways" before you begin to really generate understanding rather than just awareness.

In all things, the cartoon Dilbert is representative of how NOT to do something and yet also representative of how many people do that same thing. Read any of the Dilbert dailies and I am sure you will find examples of bad communication and change management. But in addition to finding the cartoon funny, do you know WHY the exchange is an example of ineffective communication? How do you handle similar situations differently? Have you ever walked away from a conversation frustrated thinking "I need new people"? I have. It means you (and I) missed the mark in your communication. Applying a more nuts and bolts OCM approach by working through all the aspects of a communication, would make your exchanges more successful.

But how does one get to the tactics of organizational change management?

There are really four main components of OCM which are really the grouping of TOOLS by which you execute change management or managing people through a transition (see definition above).

Have you ever heard someone basically equate change management with training?

Learning and development is one component of the change management puzzle. Conducted in a vacuum without adequate communication, engagement and alignment activities - training alone can actually do more harm to a project's success than good. For example, did participants know why they were in training? Did they perceive it as useful and/or valuable?

The four key tools of OCM are Communication, Leadership and Stakeholder Engagement, Organizational Alignment, and Learning and Development.

What are the purpose of these four tools? What do they really achieve for us in the sense of our projects? Using a change curve to plot/describe/communicate where your stakeholders are regarding their perception of your project and its impact to them will vastly improve your efforts to leverage the four OCM tools.

The goal is to use Leadership Engagement, Communications, Organizational Alignment and Learning and Development to increase the speed by which stakeholders move from the left to the right side of the change curve and to minimize the time spent in what we call the "Valley of Despair". Our friends in the Dilbert world are often in the valley of despair and the pointy haired boss's response is often of frustration and that he "needs new people" as opposed to listening, and comprehending their concerns and adjusting his approach to address them.

As you plot stakeholders along this curve you realize that your action plan for each stakeholder needs to be tailored to their position. For example, how you engage and communicate with a stakeholder who is in the early stages of the change curve should be very different than how you engage and communicate with a stakeholder who is plotted further along the curve.

Time spent on stakeholder engagement and addressing concerns should also reflect their organizational position and their ability to influence project outcomes.

You need to make sure the bulk of your efforts address those who formally or informally can dramatically influence your project success and beware of the silent stakeholder. We call this "Privately Checking Out." You should never assume that silence is agreement.

We defined OCM as anticipating, preparing, managing, monitoring and measuring and supporting stakeholders through the transition. Engagement and communication activities are required across each of these areas. A common mistake is to have communications and engagement activities taper in the middle of the project. Your engagement and communications mechanisms and goals may change at each stage but they should occur throughout each.

Organizational Alignment which refers to the coordination of goals from the Enterprise down to the project level and achieving agreement on the roles/ people impacted by the transition will be heavier at the outset of the Preparing stage.

Learning and Development activities come at the heels of Organizational Alignment and should be designed to support stakeholders in the tactical execution of duties in the future state environment. These duties should role up at intervals to the Enterprise level goals.

So if these are the OCM tools, and as Project Managers we have a key role in OCM, how has becoming a PMP and knowledgeable of the PMBOK prepared you?

There are the nine bodies of knowledge in PMBOK. Since I have discussed the obvious OCM components, (Communications Management) -which of these bodies of knowledge has nothing to do with OCM? Why would you think that any of them do not?

The answer is that each body of knowledge has implicit and explicit elements of change management. And by studying these knowledge areas you were also studying elements of OCM.


Explicit Examples

Whether you realized it or not, the PMBOK assumes you understand some fundamental OCM concepts before you even begin your certification journey.

  1. The concept of stakeholders is paramount to effective project management. Being able to identify them, interact with them, and manage their expectations is a "soft" skill that is required of all PMs.
  2. PMI defines the characteristics of a PM in terms of knowledge, performance and personal described as" how the project manger behaves when performing the project or related activity. Personal effectiveness encompasses attitudes, core personality characteristics and leadership- the ability to guide the project team while achieving project objectives and balancing the project constraints." It is the "personal" characteristic that will enable you to also effectively execute OCM activities
  3. Enterprise Environmental Factors include: Organizational culture, structure, processes; Existing human resources (skills, discipline, knowledge)' Personnel Administration (including performance review, staffing and training); Marketplace conditions; Political Climate, and Established communications channels THIS IS OCM!! These are the questions and areas of consideration for OCM activities. You need to constantly be aware and cognizant of these factors in order to achieve project success.
  4. Communications Management is a 1:1 for PM and OCM. It's by combining the knowledge gleaned from an analysis of the Enterprise Environmental Factors with the execution of communication planning, executing, and measuring that you transition from the world of Dilbert to being good communicators.
  5. HR Management: PMBOK primarily discusses this knowledge area in the context of just the project team. However, the tools and skills contained in this Knowledge Area can and should also be leveraged to successfully execute the four components of OCM. For example, a RACI? A RACI is an invaluable tool for both project teams as well as to consolidate and provide structure around stakeholders and to inform communications, learning and development, and engagement activities. Rewards and recognition activities should also be leveraged by the project team to acknowledge Stakeholders. Roles and responsibilities' descriptions of Stakeholders are also a key component of information to communications and learning and development activities (including User Acceptance Testing which is an oft forgotten opportunity for learning and development).

These tools are every bit as important for activities outside the project team as within it.


  1. Scope Management: In order to collect requirements, verify scope and control the scope you need to effectively employ leadership and stakeholder engagement techniques. Working with key stakeholders throughout the life of the project, keeping them apprised of progress, challenges along the way and partnering for solution development are tactics that are vital to both OCM and Scope Management.
  2. Similar to Scope Management, effectively engaging stakeholders is vital to Risk Management. People can be a risk!!! Their availability, their lack of support for the project and intended change. I challenge you to consider OCM as a risk mitigation strategy in each of your projects. Reviewing the organizational process assets (roles, responsibilities, processes) help to clarify the degree of change/transition which directly informs your OCM Strategy a.k.a. risk mitigation strategy.
  3. Time Management: When soliciting time for project activities, requirements definition, validation, UAT, training from business resources, you will need to leverage your knowledge of that business area and your relationships with those stakeholders in order to meet your deadlines. Additionally, the relationship, engagement, and knowledge of your stakeholders and their respective business areas may dramatically impact your project schedule. For example if you are implementing a new financial system, you don't want to schedule training for the users when are in the midst of a budget cycle. This knowledge enables you to better plan your project timelines.