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Change Management

Organizational Change Management: That “Soft” Stuff is Really the Hard Stuff


Your organization, like most others, is likely facing change. It’s a constant these days. You can’t escape it.

You make sure you have the right leaders in place to drive the change effort. You invest in good project management. You identify what process or technology needs to change. And you go for it. After months of hard work, you implement the new information management solution — a data warehouse, an EIM strategy, data governance, Master Data Management (MDM) or some combination.

Suddenly, people are confused and angry. They don’t understand what’s happened or why. They no longer understand what they are supposed to do. They don’t follow the process or use the new system. It takes months to re-implement what — according to your project plan — should only have taken weeks.

One year later, the organization is still struggling to assimilate the changes or they have gone back to doing things the old way. Any benefits are late to be realized, if at all. And if you’re like most organizations, you wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars (even several million) in project investment, and you are clueless about why this happened. The sad part is you’ll do it all over again in another year or two, most likely with the same result.

Sound familiar?

Without organizational change management, your investment in EIM is most likely wasted.Click To Tweet

Why Organizational Change Management Matters

Organizational leaders may believe that the new data governance program or new MDM solution is so self-evident that managing any required changes isn’t necessary. Often leaders have the perception that utilizing good change management practices is squishy “soft stuff” that takes too much money, time and energy.

Unfortunately, just the opposite is true — without organizational change management (OCM), your investment is most likely wasted. If you want to get the real benefits from your information management-related (or any other change) initiative, OCM is one of the most critical things to pay attention to. In fact, in my experience, effective change management is probably the top contributor to success.

For those of you about to tune out because you think this is going to be a paean to all that squishy, “feel-good” stuff about making people happy while they go through change, stay tuned as this article will illustrate why there are few things more critical to what you are implementing than paying attention to the so-called “people” side of change.

This means:

  • assessing the impact of your proposed changes on your people
  • evaluating their reactions — good, bad or in-between
  • putting a change management plan in place that addresses those reactions

If you don’t give credence to the people side of your data initiative, it could cost your company a great deal — even into the millions of dollars.

Common Objections to OCM

Even in well-run, people-focused organizations there can still be the perspective that planning and executing an effective change management approach and plan requires time and money that’s not available. Perhaps you’ve heard …

“It’ll take too long. And we don’t really need it. We need changes done quickly and people are simply going to have to cope. We don’t have the luxury of worrying about how people are feeling about what’s happening.”

This thinking will take you nowhere. Companies that ignore the impact change has on people end up with change-related issues that cost far more, due to these unrealistic expectations.

Consider this scenario: You’re a business leader facing a significant change to your organization. A new data governance program will require significant attitude and process changes in your customer service area. Resistance is strong.

What if someone offered you a means to accelerate that change, minimize damage to your organization, and realize your business objectives more quickly? You’d jump at the chance, right? So … why don’t you?

Organizational change management saves time, money and is a must-do for most any data governance program.Click To Tweet

OCM Saves Time and Money

Developing and executing a good change management approach and plan can stop the cycle of wasted time and dollars. Even better, high-quality change management will have a significant impact to your initiative’s chance of success.

To prove these points, let’s look at available data from Prosci and McKinsey. Prosci conducts its Change Management Best Practices Survey every few years and has been doing so since 1998. When looking at Prosci’s 2014 report, there is real food for thought. Respondents from 822 companies in 63 countries were asked to identify the quality of their change management initiative relative to the ability to meet or exceed project objectives and timelines:

Those who rated their change management effectiveness as excellent were 96% more likely to meet or exceed their project objectives, compared to 16% of projects where the change management initiative was considered poor or nonexistent.

Similarly, 72% of those with excellent change management programs had initiatives that were on or ahead of schedule.

Similarly, McKinsey conducted a study of projects in 40+ organizations in 2010:

  • Those projects with an excellent OCM program had an average ROI of 143%.
  • Those projects with a poor or no OCM program had an average ROI of 35%.

The conclusion from these studies show the significant correlation between the ability to accomplish objectives and deliver timely results and excellent change management support.

The data provides a strong basis for your business case for investing both time and money in using change management as a critical part of your information management initiative.

Article contributed Pam Thomas. She is an organizational effectiveness practitioner with more than 30 years of experience as a consultant and executive-level leader. As a veteran Human Resources strategist, she is adept at aligning HR and business strategies — as well as identifying and managing all the necessary elements to affect change in organization and drive business results through people. Pam has managed complex and diverse change management programs and projects for a variety of organizations.