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Achieving organizational change

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Are ITIL change management and organizational change management two processes or one (“Battle of the change methodologies,” Keep the Joint Running, 7/25/2016)?

Answer: No, they’re not. First of all, they aren’t processes. They’re disciplines — practices — or they’d better be, because making them processes courts disaster.

You already know why that is, but just in case: If you structure these as processes and implement them as processes, everyone involved will, in just a few short months, forget the point of it all and treat the process steps as checklist items instead. You’ll have added bureaucracy instead of achieving the “process” goals.

Second of all, between them ITIL CM and OCM are only a third of what’s needed to successfully change how an organization gets things done.

To reliably achieve intentional change, organizations have to achieve mastery … or at least competence … in six change disciplines: (1) business design; (2) application development/integration; (3) IT change management; (4) organizational change preparation; (5) change orchestration; and (6) project management.

One at a time:

  • Business design: This is where Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, Next Best Action, and Service-Oriented Modeling live, not that this list enumerates your only alternatives. One way or another you have to be able to describe how the future is supposed to be different from the present in a way that makes clear what has to change.
  • Application development/integration: Well this is clear, isn’t it? Most business change calls for new or changed application software. What’s less clear is that how a business goes about choosing, installing, and configuring commercial software isn’t just like how it goes about designing and coding in-house-developed applications. The challenges are quite different. In this day and age, businesses have to master both.
  • IT change management: This is ITIL’s change management or something equivalent — how IT operations goes about taking application software changes provided by application teams and puts them into production without blowing up the currently-stable production environment and also without annoying everyone to death.
  • Organizational change preparation: Until very recently (until, that is, I wrote last week’s KJR) I called this discipline “organizational change management.” I don’t anymore because the work involved in what’s commonly called OCM has little to do with managing organizational change and everything to do with preparing the organization for change.
  • Change orchestration: Business change of any size and scope has a lot of moving parts. It crosses organizational boundaries, changes employee and management responsibilities, and otherwise needs to be deployed in a carefully planned sequence so that a premature change in one area doesn’t ripple downstream in ways that prevent work from getting done.
  • Project management: Yes, of course project management. The previous five disciplines generate tasks that have to be undertaken and completed in some sort of planned order by specific staff to which the tasks are assigned. Project management is how organizations keep track of the tasks and make sure they’re finished when they’re supposed to finish.

Take a look at this list without first-class optics and you’ll be forgiven for thinking it looks awfully waterfallish. It’s certainly easier to explain business change in waterfall terms: Design, build, deploy, in that sequence, with some ancillary disciplines thrown in to sand off the rough edges.

Interestingly enough, while it’s easier to explain business change in waterfall terms, actually implementing business change is a lot easier when you apply Agile concepts to the challenge. That’s because waterfall’s long-standing shortcomings don’t get any better when applied to business change instead of software development.

The shortcomings? There are two. The first is the difficulty of comprehensively designing big things and getting the details right when nobody has enough experience with it to provide suitable guidance. Imagine the challenge is designing a flying car. The early generations are likely to miss important features like “What’s underneath my car! I can’t see through the floor!”

Waterfall’s second shortcoming? It’s the risk of designing anything so big that by the time it’s actually built, the situation has changed and it’s no longer fully relevant.

Iterative, incremental business change is a lot less complicated to manage. Which doesn’t make it easy by any means. In particular, just because a business design evolves in small steps, it still has to conform to an overall plan. And just because the steps are smaller you still can’t ignore the six change disciplines.

There’s another challenge too — scaling.

No, not scaling the six disciplines up. In many respects the challenge for agile business change is harder.

You have to scale them down.