What is OCM? Standing for organizational change management, this is the process of navigating your workforce through a change in a way that mitigates resistance and improves user adoption. It’s essential whether you’re implementing new ERP software or undergoing a full-scale digital transformation.

If you want to empower your team members to embrace and accept the change ahead rather than fear it, you need to understand the OCM basics. 

Understanding the Soft Side of Change​

With any type of organizational change, there’s both a hard side and a soft side. The hard side includes all the technical activities required to make your new system fully functional. 

While technical activities, like assessing your business requirements, meeting with software vendors, and analyzing product features, are all necessary, they shouldn’t detract from the people side of change. This encompasses all the tools and techniques you use to ensure your workforce is ready to accept the new system.

It’s easy to forget that humans are hardwired to resist change. Despite how impressive your new manufacturing ERP system or CRM system might be, old and familiar workflows can still seem more attractive. While some employees may be eager to embrace the new system, you’ll undoubtedly have detractors who refuse to get on board.

Further complicating the effort is the fact that individuals perform their jobs differently, even if they work on the same team in the same department. This means that each person will experience a different degree of change impact.

Those with the most significant change impacts to their job, may not be willing to change their behaviors and adopt new processes. To ensure change acceptance among these employees, OCM is key.

ERP Training Success Story

We helped this manufacturer implement a training strategy to increase user adoption of its new ERP system.

The Process of OCM

In one way, OCM is a process. It’s a set of steps that project leaders can take to achieve a desired outcome.

Without change management, your project can suffer major setbacks and could even fail. A few of the risks you incur by under-valuing OCM include:

  • Large-scale declines in productivity 
  • Key stakeholder disengagement
  • Managers unwilling to support the change
  • Stress, confusion, and burnout among employees 
  • Employee division and low morale

It doesn’t take long for suppliers and customers to notice these negative effects, too. This is why OCM steps are too important to overlook.

These steps can be grouped into three distinct stages, including:

  • Stage 1: Preparing your OCM approach
  • Stage 2: Actively managing change 
  • Stage 3: Sustaining change-related outcomes

Let’s look at each of these stages in greater detail.

Stage 1: Preparing Your OCM Approach​

Before you dive into your change initiative, it’s important to establish how you’ll approach OCM activities. In this initial stage, you’ll look at the change as a whole.

This means conducting a variety of change management assessments. Along the way, you’ll discover how your new systems will affect your current workflows as well as which teams you’re affecting and how.

Once you’ve answered these questions and other essential questions, it’s time to define the key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll use to measure user adoption and project success.

Setting Individual and Organizational KPIs

Throughout software selection and implementation, you want to make sure that each employee feels fully prepared for the change. This means . . .

  • They’re aware of why the change is necessary
  • They want to participate in and support the change
  • They know how to change
  • They have the ability to implement new skills and behaviors
  • They know how to sustain the change

In addition to achieving these goals on an individual level, you can apply the same metrics to your organization as a whole.

Stage 2: Actively Managing Change​

Start by establishing an OCM team responsible for spearheading the effort. This team will be responsible for preparing, supporting, and engaging employees at every point in the project.

This means putting your communication plan into practice. This is a plan that outlines your approach for communicating the change to your team members. It accounts for the fact that the way you speak to your C-suite differs from the way you speak to your department managers.

There are many challenges with organizational communication, so you should periodically check in with your OCM team to monitor their progress. Talk about how things are going and brainstorm ways you can improve. You may find you need to make adjustments to accommodate a particular group or address a repeat concern. 

In addition to enacting your communication plan, you must execute a strategy for engaging executive sponsors and cross-functional influencers. Together, these stakeholders will form your guiding coalition. This coalition is essential because if your workforce sees your top-level stakeholders actively participating in and championing the change, they’re more willing to do so themselves. 

Another essential component of this stage is implementing an end-user training plan. This plan outlines the skills and knowledge gaps among your workforce as well as the materials and mediums you will use to fill those gaps.

Stage 3: Sustaining Change-Related Outcomes

Your project doesn’t end once you go live. In fact, it’s only beginning. This is the real test to see how well your employees are adapting to the change. Even if they seem to be on board during the final testing and training procedures, it can be daunting to apply their new knowledge in a real-world setting. 

Use your KPIs to monitor how well employees are acclimating to the new environment. Are they using the updated systems, or are most of them reverting to their old processes?

For those employees that are acclimating, think about the steps you’ll need to put in place to make sure the change sticks. Often, team members are active and engaged in the first few weeks, but fatigue can quickly set in. As they start to put their training into practice, they might find that they have more questions and concerns than they initially thought.

Ultimately, to monitor outcomes and assess performance, you need a change leader who’s actively involved in the company’s day-to-day operations. This leader will assume ownership of the OCM project in the post-live stage and will work to sustain positive outcomes. This may mean incentivizing employees to use the new system and rewarding or recognizing those who do. 

OCM as a Strategic Competency

Whether your company undergoes frequent organizational changes, or these transformations are few and far between, it’s important to treat OCM as a strategic organizational competency. 

The more you can build your OCM muscle, the better prepared you’ll be to incorporate additional technology into your enterprise.

Building a change-ready culture doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to make your employees feel empowered to tackle any change that comes their way, so be sure to incorporate this aspect into your next change initiative.

What is OCM? It’s the Linchpin to Project Success

What is OCM? By now you should know the answer.

If you’re planning any type of change at your organization, OCM is one component that you must prioritize.

Too often, businesses become overly focused on the technical side of their implementations without giving nearly as much thought to the people side. When it’s time to go live, all their new systems are in place, but no one’s using them.

You deserve to realize the full benefits of digital transformation. Our change management consultants can help you navigate OCM so you can achieve these benefits. Contact us below for a free consultation. 

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