Organizational Change ManagementWhen you experience a change in your workplace, school or even grocery store and it goes smoothly- with few bumps or misunderstandings-that wasn't an accident. That was good
Organizational Change Management. Organizational Change Management, or OCM, is a focus on "the people" before, during and after a change to achieve success and adoption of the change in a system or organization. More than just cursory training or a few well-timed emails, OCM is a thoughtful process to prepare all the people affected by a change so that the new state is adopted more readily.

An outstanding OCM tool is the Prosci© ADKAR Model, which outlines the five elements of change that are necessary for a change to be successful. ADKAR is an acronym for:






Let's examine how these key steps can make the change a success:

Let's say your neighborhood Homeowners Association (HOA) has chosen a new trash pickup company. Do they simply spirit away your old trashcan and leave you a new one with no idea of the pick-up schedule or trashcan placement rules? That would not equip the homeowners for the change. If they're doing a good job you are notified in advance of the change, given reasons for the switch to the new company and provided the expectations for trash pickup. The change is reinforced when your properly placed trash can is emptied on the scheduled day. Success!

Here is the change in light of the ADKAR model to outline the successful OCM:

  1. Awareness: People need to be aware of the need for change. If I didn't know that our HOA's legacy trash company was increasing rates by 10% next year, I wouldn't be inclined to switch pickup companies. The awareness of the need to change must be present.
  2. Desire: When I know there is something I can do about the rate increase, I'm willing to act. When I learn a comparable trash company will save $15/month, I'm excited about the change. And when I learn I'll also get a brand new trashcan with wheels? I'm in! The desire to change is there.
  3. Knowledge: Here's where training enters the equation-after Awareness and Desire are already present. Now I learn the new trash pickup company rules: the new pickup date, new pickup time, list of materials that can be put in the trashcan. I am trained and ready to go.
  4. Ability: Am I able to make these changes? Has the knowledge been communicated in a way that I can easily remember the new trash day/new pick up time/accepted materials? This question is harder to answer the more complex the change. But ability should not be overlooked. If I have awareness, desire and knowledge but no ability to execute, I'm not able to embrace the change.
  5. Reinforcement: The final piece of the puzzle comes when we receive positive (or negative) reinforcement pushing us to further embrace the change. Maybe I fail to set out my trash can on the new trash day and miss the pick-up, resulting in an overflowing trash can the rest of that week. I'll try not to make that mistake again. Or, maybe I am so pleased by my new, clean trash can that I'm more likely to remember to bring it out on the correct day. Either way, the new change is reinforced by good and bad consequences of embracing or rejecting the change.

Excellent OCM is also critical in an IT project. An OCM Specialist on the project team guides and shapes project implementation by including "the people side of change" in every element of project planning and execution. At project initiation, the OCM Specialist assesses organizational readiness, prepares the sponsor and defines the change strategy. During the project this Specialist develops every level of messaging, training and engagement for all affected employees while coaching the sponsor to communicate objectives, priorities and plans. Finally, once the change has been completed, the OCM Specialist collects and analyzes feedback, advises on continued messaging and training, and encourages the celebration of successful change.

When OCM is neglected in a project, the successful adoption of the change is in jeopardy. Sometimes organizations would prefer to assume their employees will just "get it" and embrace the new processes, job roles, software changes, or system overhauls. But the Prosci© ADKAR model shows us that no step in the change process can be taken for granted.

Without deliberate OCM, the organization will see more resistance from employees, which is evident in lower productivity, higher turnover and lower utilization/incorrect usage of the new processes, system and tools. In a worst case scenario, the change is rejected completely as employees create work-arounds to avoid the new system or process.

Alternatively, excellent OCM makes participants 6 times more likely to meet or exceed project objectives. And a project has a 81% likelihood of meeting or coming in under budget when excellent OCM work shapes the change.[i]

So, if good Organizational Change Management is important enough to be used in a small change like an HOA's trash collection process, why not invite good Organizational Change Management into the planning and execution of any change in the workplace? New processes or job roles, software changes, or system overhauls can be disruptive and hard to navigate. Good OCM smooths the bumps, improves adoption and dramatically increases a project's success.


[i] From the Prosci© The Case for Change Management Presentation, 2014,