• richardhcarson


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.

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