No Plan, Epic Fail

Sep 29, 2010 No Comments by

One common thread I’ve seen in many organizational change disasters is the utter lack of a PLAN to guide the work.  In an earlier article, I laid out common reasons that Organizational Change Management (OCM) initiatives fail and this risk is right at the top of that list.

Some disasters can be averted with a little planning.

There’s an old project management adage that goes like this:

“Fail to Plan = Plan to Fail”

In today’s post, I’ll address what needs to be in your OCM plan. In the next one I’ll discuss how to build a plan for your OCM project.

Core OCM Activites: Here’s my list of essential change-related activities that should be accounted for in your OCM Plan:

  • Alignment: Make sure the leaders of the organization who are sponsoring the change are on exactly the same page about what is IN and what is OUT of scope for the change. Verify that they agree on the resource investments, expected results and time lines.  See my post on this topic from earlier in September for a synopsis of what constitutes alignment and how to get it.
  • Identify and Track OCM Risks: Plan for the work it takes to dig up & keep tabs on the biggest change-related risks to your initiative.  Consider what internal employees & external partners will be impacted.  How will your processes change?  Will anyone see this change as a threat to the status quo? What resistance might you face? See my earlier posts on uncovering stakeholders and change impacts for more details.
  • Resolve OCM Risks: Include activities, effort and resources to resolve the change-related risks as you uncover them.  The most common OCM resolution work involves analysis, defining options, making decisions and following through on communication and training activities – but you’ll need to have resources and activities built into the plan up front or this work could get neglected.  In rare cases, you can assign this work to 1 or 2 people… in most cases, its effective to define a “bucket” of resources across the team and “windows” of time to resolve the OCM risks as they are discovered.
  • Communicate & Gather Feedback:  One of the most common OCM activities is communication with stakeholders.  Build in time and resources to clarify the most important change impacts, create key messages, deliver communication and gather feedback on its effectiveness.  Plan for several cycles of communication and use multiple channels.  Be ready to repeat key messages several times if needed.
  • Build Stakeholder Readiness & Verify It: This is often the hardest part of the OCM effort, so make sure it gets accounted for in the planning.  Training is the obvious answer, but don’t over-simplify the solution.  Start early with Stakeholder identification (see my earlier post on how to do this) Consider site visits or online events to build readiness. Plan for quizzes, surveys and interviews to measure readiness.
  • Transition to Sustain the Change Long-Term: You may also need to build a robust support structure for the new way of doing things or blend the new change into an existing stakeholder support structure.  (example: users of the new technology system will require help desk support once it goes live…) Account for this work in the up-front planning and you won’t have to fight as many fires (or issue as many apologies) in the aftermath of a failed change.

Do I Really Have to Do All This OCM Work? Probably. I know the list of OCM activities is long and the work may not be easy, but one underlying cause of the poor track record OCM projects have is how lightly companies treat the work.  So plan the work & work the plan – your results should be better than most.


Questions for Chatter:

  1. What elements have you most often seen missing from OCM plans? (assuming the project had some sort of plan)

Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Change Leadership

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