Busy Doing What?

Aug 22, 2010 1 Comment by

Being “Busy as a Bee” is a good thing, right?

It's not enough for your team to be busy... It matters very much WHAT they are busy doing! This post talks about applying plain old planning and execution to Change. OBTW: I shot this pic at the farm in Minnesota... check out my Flickr link on the right sidebar for more photos...:o)

Of course we want our people and our teams to be cracking that whip and getting things done every hour of the work day.  Busy people would seem to be a sure sign of high productivity.  But that rule of thumb also comes with this caveat: “True productivity isn’t just the amount of work that gets done while using time & resources… it’s the measure of meaningful results delivered for that investment.

So I suggest that it isn’t enough for you to know that the folks on your OCM team (OCM=Organizational Change Management) are actively working their tails off… Its also important that you:

  1. …give them clear direction on what work will be done to support your change.
  2. …and track progress & make adjustments as the change unfolds.

1. How do you know what OCM work to do?

There is an old project management maxim that goes like this:

“Plan the work, then work the plan.”

Anyone can look back at a failed change effort and list the things that should have been done to prevent the train wreck. What if we started by listing these risk-averting activities BEFORE we started? I advise clients to follow a clear, methodical OCM process that defines the work and deliverables needed for successful change such as:

  • define what’s in and out of the change
  • align the team on resources, schedules and expected outcomes
  • find all the stakeholders (see my earlier post on this topic)
  • document and execute the OCM communication plan
  • build stakeholder readiness

and so forth..

A novice baker would not be able to turn out this Red Velvet Wonder without a good recipe and some diligent follow-through.

Making a great cake depends on a proven recipe and a baker who follows it. The recipe needed for successful change is a proven OCM method.  The follow-through is no different than what’s needed on any solidly-executed project.  One caution: methodologies are typically described in very general terms so you’ll need to pick through the suggested activities & deliverables before tailoring them to your unique business situation, your specific change and your people.

Document these activities in a clear project plan, like those used to track and report progress on “regular projects”, or the project that your change is a part of.  (for example, lots of organizations will have an OCM component to their big technology implementation projects). Make sure the schedule is realistic and coordinated with other work and verify that resources will be dedicated to getting the OCM work done.

2. Red, Yellow or Green?
Now comes the second part of the old PM rule: track to the plan. It is often easy to let the change work slide because it’s not viewed as a high priority. Avoid this tendency by reporting on change activities using the same status reporting cycle that regular project activities follow. Example: If the OCM activity called “Invite Stakeholders to Training” is two weeks late, you can bet it will effect training attendance and that will directly impact stakeholder readiness.

Many project management experts like to use the “red, yellow green” method to communicate the status of activities.  It works like a stop light:

  • Green: everything for this activity is on track, keep working as planned.
  • Yellow: Caution! We are off track and we’ve made adjustments.
  • Red: It’s off track and we need help finding a solution – let’s escalate it.

The Bottom Line:

The best thing about following an OCM method is that even a novice will include items they would not have otherwise known to include in an organizational change management plan.  And the best things about following an OCM plan is that you can communicate what to expect, monitor if you are on track and make adjustments as needed to mitigate change-related risks.


Questions for Chatter: (click “Leave a Comment” below)

  1. In your experience, do most companies follow an “OCM methodology” when planning for change, or do they just “wing it”?
  2. Do OCM activities really need this level of priority, resources and attention, or is this really just “soft stuff” that gets too much attention during projects?

Change Agent Skills, Change Execution, Change Leadership, Team Dynamics

About the author

I help people and teams succeed with big changes... never a dull moment!

One Response to “Busy Doing What?”

  1. Team productivity can be a challenge for Change Agents & leadership says:

    […] To learn more about how to focus the work of your change read “Busy Doing What?“.  […]

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