Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

Where should Change Management reside in an Org Structure?

This excellent question was posed on LinkedIn today.  Of course there is no single answer – it must be custom. Key factors include:

  • How much change is your organization facing in the next 3-5-10 years?
  • What kinds of change? Will your people have to think and behave differently? Role change, technology change, process change, all of above?
  • How many changes? One big bang (sprint), several moderate bangs spread out (marathon), on-going transformational change?
  • How large is your organization? 1 location, National, Global?
  • How is your organization structured today? chain of command, matrixed, finance driven, product driven, functional driven, etc. Is this changing?
  • What is the change culture like? Is change a part of the culture, is there change resilience?
  • Where are the strengths in your leadership team? (requires discussion – per our definition of CM below, CM is multi-disciplinary by its nature and silo-ing weakens the benefits. Basically is there a leader respected enough in the organization for collaboration, who can juggle without default prioritization eg PMO / CM balance, HR / CM implementation balance) Who is ‘driving’ the most change?
  • Candidates could be Head of Strategy, PMO, OD, Business Unit, etc.

I believe there is a distinction between:

  • Organizational Change Management (Mission, Vision, Values, Culture, Capability / Training) and
  • Project Change Management (tactical implementation: raising adoption, proficiency and ultimate utilization) and
  • that these are both required but do not naturally reside in the same place in an org structure

I will also suggest that in some organizations much change is initiated from IT (e.g. ERP) however the real value is generated out of adoption in other departments. The key is engagement and collaboration.

I like Garrett Gitchell’s challenge “no where” but I would say instead “every where”. If an organization faces global, transformational change then I do believe a CM Executive is important with a team that is dispersed, highly matrixed and collaborative – and includes a Centre of Excellence with participation of HR, OD, IT, PMO, etc and is open to any professional to develop these competencies.

Many start with a CM track in a project and use this experience as a platform for learning – please be sure that you retain reputable and experienced practitioners for this. Please ensure that representation from each of the multi-disciplines above are engaged. And please do not make CM subservient to PM. The greatest (very real) risk here is that it is under scoped and under delivered leading to the incorrect assumption that CM does not drive much value.

As an intermediate solution, one might establish a pilot CM group that would allow for trial and learn to customize the right structure for your organization.

8 Comments so far
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We are both right (and you have lots of other good stuff in this post) a CM group should be nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Nowhere is the stripping away of a formal reporting structure and the everywhere is how the CM group facilitates and implements change.

Comment by Garrett Gitchell

and here is my blog version answer (a little more than the original from LinkedIn).

Comment by Garrett Gitchell

Thanks Garrett. You always get me thinking. I did read this blog post and I do agree with most points. The notion of stripping away formal structure is alluring, suggests a more collaborative state, but I struggle to imagine how it would work – please do share more thoughts on this.

The reference to ownership reminded me also of a recent blog by Daryl Conner that addresses the question of roles and responsibilities (some elements of “ownership”) with a free “Contract for Sponsor-Agent Working Relationship” here

Really appreciate the dialogue – this is what moves us all forward.

Comment by Gail Severini

Gail is so smart. I agree “everywhere” is better than in an organization that is not effective. Let me explain. CM should not be saddled with the heritage of an ineffective home. If it resides in IT, HR, Strategy, PMO, or Quality, and if the home organization is weak, your CM is doomed. Also, I have seen an effective implementation which had centralized CM analysis, planning and strategy deployment, but eyes and ears out in the functional units. The central change management organization maps out the approach, roles and tools and the “field change agents” gather information (such as what Gail is mentioning) and submit their findings to the central change managers. Please don’t forget the roles of leadership, who are “everywhere” as well.

Good luck.

Comment by bobdodgeecm

Gail, in my opinion CM should be independent of any area and influence except the board but only if it’s a programme i.e. a large and all encompassing change.
However I also don’t believe that CM necessarily needs programme managing or even be managed in a particular way to be successful, it should happen frequently and positively and I know that the most effective tool in the CM box is the incumbent staff. I’ve seen time again that when a change is in the early stages the management withdraw from the staff, partly for protection because its seen as bad news and that is when the distrust starts. Keep the staff informed, listen, manage their fear and win their hearts and minds and they will do it for you.

Comment by Dee

Thanks Dee – great points. Can you please share this back with the Discussion Group as well? Gail

Comment by Gail Severini

I could but don’t know how 😦

Comment by Dee

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