Plan the Work – Work the Plan

Oct 04, 2010 No Comments by

In a previous post, I shared what core activities should be in a good Organizational Change Management (OCM) Plan. Now let’s look at how to do the work of planning for your OCM project.

The Art of Planning:

I’m going to use the word “plan” as a verb here.  When I say “plan for OCM” I mean more than: “you need to THINK of these things…”.  I mean that you need to involve the entire team in a process ofdefining the work, agreeing to deliverables and setting the schedule.

You should consider the word "plan" as both the noun (a thing) and a verb (action).

I mean that you will work together to write down a real PLAN that your team commits to following.  You should coordinate the plan with your stakeholders so it fits in with their other priorities or you may be surprised to learn they are not following it as the initiative unfolds.  There is an art to getting people on the same page… but the up-front alignment will pay off down stream.  As you get these agreements in place, a time-honored Project Management axiom applies:

“Plan the work. Then work the plan.”

Professional Project Managers who read this might scream “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell everyone!” Organizational Development Experts may cry just as loudly: “Too much structure! We’re dealing with people here, not some construction project!” In a way, they’re both right and the optimal answer lies somewhere in between – but I would argue that I have seen the lack of planning sink far more OCM initiatives than too much planning ever did…

US President and Army General Dwight David Eisenhower once said: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

The Work of Planning:  Whether your initiative involves building a bridge or building support for the merger of two former business rivals, you will probably benefit from the discipline of project management.

Here is the kind of work that typically goes into project planning, regardless of the nature of the project (construction, OCM, ERP, software, etc.). I apologize in advance to formal Project Managers for the over-simplification of my list and to Org Development folks for the rigor.  You should:

  • Define the actual work needed to achieve the project’s goals.
  • Sequence the activities to derive a schedule.
  • Estimate the effort and skills needed to pull it off.
  • Decide who should do the work & lock in the resources to get things done.
  • Identify exactly what techniques and tools will be used to focus the work and drive results from each step of the process.
  • Review the plan with those who contributed to building it and adjust the resources, schedule and deliverable expectations to fit reality.
  • Plan to track the status of the work – and emphasize the need to stay on schedule, stay within budget, sign off on deliverables, etc.

The reason I stress this pure project management stuff up front is that so many teams fail to apply the same level of diligence to planning their OCM work as they do for their “regular” project activities.  Treat all of it – including the OCM work – as being equally necessary if you intend to accomplish the business goals of the project.

But Do I Really HAVE to? I encourage my clients to treat the OCM team as a full partner in planning any project that involves significant change.  If you’re not sure whether your project involves change, consider if any person will need to do any thing in any way that’s different than the current state of affairs… Or if any disruption could come from a transition to the new way of  doing something. If the answer to any of that is “yes” – you should probably do OCM & you definitely should have an OCM plan.


Questions for Chatter:

  1. Have your projects typically had OCM plans? If so, were they done up front or later, in reaction to a sudden realization that OCM was needed?

Incoming search terms:

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Change Execution, Change Leadership, Team Dynamics

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