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  • richardhcarson

If you ask a government employee the question “Why are you doing it that way?” Then the answer will probably be “We’ve always done it this way!” Government agencies are notorious for being inflexible and unchangeable. Many a crusading elected official has discovered the hard way that it not change its way overnight.

However, what is really interesting is that if you ask individual employee how a particular process works, then you will get very different answers. In other words, how a process works is usually a matter of personal perspective and not a matter of procedural directive.

It is hard for local government managers to find a silver lining in the current economy. Dwindling public resources have resulted in a fiscal triage of cutting contracts, reducing service levels, and deciding which employees are the first to be laid off because they are nonessential. It is also hard to convince elected officials that there is any other long-term strategy for addressing the problem other than the political reality of their four-year terms. Many elected officials subscribe to President Ronald Reagan’s admonition about change: “It's hard when you're up to your armpits in alligators to remember you came here to drain the swamp.”

The reality is that government agencies are going through huge organizational changes that they never anticipated. Most organizational change is forced on a public agency by external forces. It is usually the political upheaval of a major election, but occasionally it is the economic upheaval of a recession. In any case, public agencies usually resist organizational change until they are faced with a political or economic crisis.

The organizational dilemma is that there is a difference between private and public sector organizations. Private sector organizations listen to their external stakeholders because their livelihoods and profits depend on customer input. In business, if you don’t listen to your customers, then your rivals will.

But public sector organizations don’t have any financial incentive to pay attention to their customers. This can result in a my-way-or-the-highway mentality. It also can result in government managers being blind to the political change occurring around them.

So, where is the silver lining in today’s economic downturn? Managers have the opportunity to make meaningful organizational changes. Organizational change can be a good thing and a major opportunity to communicate with internal and external stakeholders about their organization’s future; to make behavioral, structural, and technical improvements; and to survive and prosper from that change.


Most organizational change is forced on public agencies by external forces. That is unfortunate because it creates a reactive climate of fear: members of the staff resist the change process and may even work to sabotage it. There is a better model, however, where organizational change is treated as an ongoing systematic process; in this model, staff members are at the heart of the change process and actually drive it.

Change that comes from within and is staff driven is much more successful and productive than change imposed from outside. Dr. David Carnevale, in his book Organizational Development in the Public Sector, says, “Involving employees in structured problem solving, allowing them effective voice, and respecting their know-how are the core elements in the physics of learning.”

One good example of external forces and positive organizational change is the recent trend for succession planning in organizations. As the working population has aged, there has been a need to find younger employees to replace those employees who have been retiring.

Succession planning has been embraced by all employees because the result has been that as the older employees retired, they provided on-the-job wisdom to the younger employees; the younger employees were promoted and earned more for taking on more responsibility; and the management staff maintained an effective workforce. It was win-win for everyone. I talk about this in the past tense because the concept of succession planning was often put on hold as older employees’ retirement funds lost value and they needed to work longer, and the younger employees often got laid off.

To successfully accomplish organizational change, it is important to understand the difference between rhetoric and action. Creating organizational change by creating a new mission, goals, and objectives is pointless unless the objective becomes an action, and the repeated action creates new behavior.

These actions are best carried out through a long-term strategic plan that fits together with a multiyear budget that is monitored through strong performance measures. Noted leadership trainer John E. Jones said, “What gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated.”

Unfortunately, even good strategic plans can be doomed to gather dust on a shelf. Every successful strategic plan needs a person, a team, or a committee whose job is to make sure the strategic plan is carried out at every level of the organization over time. Quite frankly, that person cannot be the local government administrator.

The administrator is too busy in the daily swamp of responsibilities to manage the strategic plan. So I suggest you find someone who is a good project manager. That person needs to report directly to the local government administrator and have the administrator’s total support, because that person is going to need it.


First and foremost, organizational change is about human behavior. It is about how elected officials, government managers, line staff, and the public stakeholders interact. A dysfunctional organization is one where the players don’t share a common vision or have common expectations and do not work well together.

Having greater resources will improve an organization’s ability to deliver services. Greater resources, however, will not make an organization more efficient or effective. To be more efficient means you need to use organizational change to do the best you can with what you have. And that means changing human behavior.

Carnevale says, “The premise is that the organizational members own their own problems and are responsible for finding solutions to them. OD does not ‘fix’ people through the use of outside consultants.” Owning the problems and the solutions is important because ownership helps reduce the fear on the part of the employees that someone from outside the organization is going to fix them, in other words, blame them and fire them!

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PSOCM® is a 3-Phase, 10-Step, 40-Action comprehensive, life-cycle series, change management model based on a systematic literature review, and meta-analysis of the top 22 change management processes.

One important distinction to keep in mind when considering using PSOCM is that it is free. In the high-tech world, there are numerous open-source software programs from which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. That is the beauty of PSOCM®. You can use it or modify it to fit your specific organizational needs. Indeed, when you find improvements, then please contact me about your experience – positive or negative. Over time I will be adding information about such experience here on the website.

People Sustained Organizational Change Management or PSOCM® was developed as part of the doctorate research at Washington State University’s Interdisciplinary Doctorate Program by Richard H. Carson. The model is the most comprehensive change management models available today. It presents the first complete life-cycle series of steps that can be utilized in total, in phases or as discrete activities.

This is important because all of the models that followed Lewin’s model are basically the same formula. My model follows him with its Initiate, Implement, and Maintain phases. The difference between my model and all the others is the level of 40 Actions that it generates. You are not left to wonder what to do now! In the past, you needed to hire a consultant to bridge the gap. Now you can use your own internal change management specialist to accomplish this on a routine basis.

Every large organization has a risk management specialist. His or her job is to keep you from making costly mistakes. This is essentially a reactive function. The change management function is proactive. It works almost like having an organizational radar to anticipate change and in some cases initiate change. I want to note that this model is more than a theory. In the latter part of my 30-year management experience, I implemented various organizational change management projects. I followed this with another 10 years as an organizational change management consultant. I did this first with a national company and then through my own company Carson & Associates. So, I learned the hard way what works and what does not.

You, the change agent, need to present this to your client for their approval before you can move on to the diagnosis phase. This may or may not present a problem. One of the advantages of hiring a consultant is that the consultant brings with them the patina of professional/subject matter expert (SME) objectiveness.

However, let us assume stalking horse scenario is this is not the case. In which case you are faced with advising you client that their premise was wholly or partially correct, or incorrect. With any luck your client will realize that addressing the issues embedded in the final problem is paramount and will benefit their organizational mission statement. That being said, the problem statement will either be found to be correct or modified in order for the diagnosis phase to begin. You create the final problem statement for diagnosis.

I have developed a ground-breaking diagnostic tool for use in getting to the root of the organizational health problem. You can check this out in my new diagnostic section. This is the most advanced problem-solving process available to the change management agent. Finally, there is a process that makes sense and is sufficiently detailed, in terms of instructions, to meet the challenge facing your organization!

The 40 step model can be found on the Book of Change® website!

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Organizational Change Management

Effective change management balances strategic organizational focus, processes and people. Organizational change management (OCM) begins with a systematic diagnosis of the current situation in order to determine both the need for change and the capability to change. The objectives, content, and process of change should all be specified as part of a change management plan.

Companies today are racing to analyze data for new insights and tapping into employees and customers for innovative ideas to stay ahead of competitors – all resulting in changes that require implementation.

This process; plus, the rapid evolution of customer requirements, governmental regulation and the competitive business environment; requires organizations to adapt quickly and constantly. g making organizational change. The most common change drivers include: technological evolution, process reviews, crisis, and consumer habit changes; pressure from new business entrants, acquisitions, mergers, and organizational restructuring.

It includes methods that redirect or redefine the use of resources, business process, budget allocations, or other modes of operation that significantly change a company or organization. Organizational change management considers the full organization and what needs to change, while change management may be used solely to refer to how people and teams are affected by such organizational transition. It deals with many different disciplines, from behavioral and social sciences to information technology and business solutions.

In a project-management context, the term "change management" may be used as an alternative to change control processes wherein changes to the scope of a project are formally introduced and approved.

Organizational change management (OCM) is the process, tools and techniques used to manage the people side of change to achieve a required organizational outcome.

OCM Strategies

#1. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” There are two ways to deal with change. Ignore it or fix it. I used to work for a conservative, Republican governor whose favorite saying was, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The opportunity or dilemma facing you at the moment may be best left unsolved because it will resolve itself. This is the “No news is good news” approach. In the world of organizational change management, the corollary is “We have always done it this way.” So, let me begin my book by saying that this concept has some merit – but left unresolved are fatal.

#2. Beware the Tech Salesperson Bearing Gifts. On the other hand, change for the sake of change is not good. The very first quote in my Quotes section is “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell” by Edward Abbey (writer, essayist, novelist 1927-1989). There are folks who love change. My late wife’s father was a gadget collector. There wasn’t a gadget made by Ronco that he didn’t buy. Ronco sold gadgets on television with the suffix of "-O-Matic" up until 2018. In today’s organizational environment beware of the “Tech-O-Matic” salesperson.

Some of the greatest organizational change disasters have been because someone bought what I like to call Tech-O-Matic software. The 20th and 100rstCentury landscape are littered with Tech-O-Matic casualties of almost Biblical proportions (Figure 3.1).

For you, it might be that your homemade software program built for your specific needs that has outlived its usefulness and is now failing a lot. So, what to do? You send your technology person(s) forth to find a solution. WRONG!!! Techies are great at running software, but terrible when buying it. They are too easily sold crap by glamorous, sexy, or savvy tech talking salespeople. I know that sounds a bit unfair. But look, it’s kind of like the difference between driving a car and buying one. We have to study for and then take a test to drive one. But when it comes to buying one, we are clueless. Car salespeople are trained to sell cars and they have you sized up, through some Dale Carnegie like class, with the first few minutes of meeting them.

Software salespeople are no different. They took a lot of Tech-O-Matic sales classes on how to sell you their product. And their product is only the best because that’s who they work for. Think about it. They didn’t spend hundreds of hours researching the most effective software in the universe to represent. They spent a few hours researching who paid the most in salary and benefits. In the land of salespeople that means commissions and perks. Duh! So, what is the answer? Spend a few extra bucks and hire someone who knows the software business and can provide unbiased answers to be your representative. And when it comes to organizational change management? Yes, get a change management specialist to help you navigate the change management swamp.

#3. Don’t Try This at Home Kids! I hope you see where I am going with this. When you are thinking about making any kind of consequential change, then hire a change manager.

Hang on to my book because there is another saying. It’s called “Shit happens.”

The oft used cultural meme of “Don’t try this at home kids” also has its basis in the world of change management. One of the most often used statistics is that 70 percent of planned organizational change initiatives failed (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011). This includes reengineering and total quality management change management programs that fail (Cameron, 1999). I find it interesting that 70 percent of small business owners fail by their 10th year in business (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016). There is a correlation here. Starting a small business and undertaking a serious change in the way an existing organization performs is all about doing something new where the risk/reward odds are not in your favor. The failure rate of managing change is terribly daunting. You can get better odds in Las Vegas. My father liked playing Blackjack, also known as “21.” He liked it because it had the highest odds of his winning. In Vegas the house only wins 51 percent of time. So, what can you do to put you in the winner’s circle? Hire a subject matter expert (SME).

#4. Choices, Choices, Choices: Proactive, Inactive, Reactive. When I was in my 20s, I had a great poster with the caption, “Choices, Choices, Choices.” It pictured a red Ferrari, a vintage bottle of wine, and a back view of a curvaceous female. Your life and the life of your organization means you will be making choices when faced with events, large and small, that may impact you and your organization. Such choices are either proactive, inactive, or reactive depending on the circumstances. Any change in your life can be imperceptibly small or incredible huge. It is your choice when and how to deal with any change. So, the first step in the change management process is to contemplate and evaluate a potential change event for its impact.

Proactive. Being proactive has its drawbacks. If you spend all of your time looking for potential changes, then you may end up not doing your real job.

In one of my past lives, I secured a federal grant to create an interactive GIS map of seismic areas in the Portland, Oregon metro area. This region is not as susceptible as Southern California to earthquakes. However, but it is due to have a subduction zone earthquake that can reach a magnitude 8-9. Long story made short, this kind of emergency preparedness will save thousands of lives a millions of property damage dollars. Needless to say, that on a change management scale of 1-10, this was a 10.

Inactive. I find it odd that in my literature review work, I didn’t come across anyone talking about the virtues of doing nothing or what I refer to as the inactive. To be quite honest, I think it’s because there is no money in a change management consultant selling it.

There is a lot to be said for the inactive approach. That being making no choice at all and hoping if goes away. Many potential change events will not materialize if you do nothing.

There are lots of quaint sayings about this. As I mentioned before, No news is good news and If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix itcome to mind.

I have done this on numerous occasions. In my lifetime, I have raised children. I can tell you from experience that what is a major event in the life of a teenager was not to me as a middle-age father. And I found that the best course of action was to often ignore such events.

The problem is that ignoring a potentially life-threatening event to you or your organization can be fatal. So, the first step in the change management process is to evaluate a potential change event for it impact.

Reactive. I recently watched a video about the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius (79 A.D.) and the following destruction of the city of Pompeii and the death of some of the region’s 20,000 residents. Before people died from the pyroclastic surges and ashfall, one person died differently. A gladiator, in the streets of Pompeii, died when hit by a small piece of pumice shot a mile into the air that came back to earth at 122 miles per hour. So, what’s my point? Shit happens and you can’t plan for it!

Somewhere in most large organizations there is a person and/or office with the title Risk Management. It is this person’s job to contemplate potential financial risks and what to do about it. Unfortunately, this person is primarily concerned with potential risks that may hinder the finances of the organization, but not more than that.

There is probably not a similar person in your organization with the title of Change Management whose job is to be proactive, inactive, and reactive. I am glad to say that this is changing.


Your organization faces changes, big and small, every day. When I started writing this book the SARS (2002), Swine Flu (2009), West African Ebola (2014), and Zika Virus (2015) were all pandemics of the past that surely would never happen again. But then COVID-19 happened, and we weren’t ready. We didn’t learn our change management lesson. What about you? What have you not learned from your work-life experiences?

Let me close with another life story. It is about the short life story of a turkey. In Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, The Black Swan, he tells the tale of such a bird. It’s the 1,001 days in the life of a turkey from egg birth to Thanksgiving Day in America. The turkey’s entire life is pretty good. There are no predators. So, fear is not a problem. It gets fed every day. So, food is not a problem. At night it has comfortable quarters shared with birds of a feather. The turkey’s perspective is that “It is fed every day by friendly members of the human race ‘looking out for its best interests.’” That is until on the 1,001stday when, “It will incur a revision of belief” (Taleb, 2007).

The point of this book is to make sure that you will not be a turkey and read on.