Organizational Change Management

The purpose of Organizational Change Management (OCM) is to ensure that any cultural and/or operational impacts resulting from the implementation of the project are identified, planned for, and communicated to those who are affected. Integrating OCM into your project will help contribute to the overall quality of project outcomes, and therefore the EPMO integrates OCM with project management as part of our State standard PM methodology for technology projects with a total lifecycle cost in excess of $500,000.

OCM Methodology

The EPMO utilizes the ADKAR® methodology and framework for OCM.  Developed by Jeff Hiatt and advocated by Prosci®, a world leader in benchmarking research and change management, ADKAR® defines the following steps to guide individuals and organizations through change.

Awareness of the need for change - What is changing and Why?

Desire to participate and support the change - What’s in it for me?

Knowledge on how to change – What do I need to learn, and When?

Ability to have required skills and behaviors – Obtain Training, and confidence through Testing

Reinforcement to sustain the change - Recognition, metrics and continuous improvement

OCM Change Agents and the Role of the Oversight PM

What’s the right amount of OCM to apply on a project?  Similar to Project Management where the right amount depends upon the complexity, risk, and degree of change, the right amount of OCM also depends on similar variables such as the time required for employee's to become proficient with the change, or the tolerance for disruptions potentially bringing dips to productivity and customer service.   Well executed OCM can help individuals more quickly achieve the anticipated benefits of the change and increase confidence in the Leadership initiating changes.

Depending on the size of the project and number of impacted Stakeholder Groups and individuals, Project Teams often lack the resources and time to hand-hold everyone along the way making sure they have all the information needed at just the right time.  Enter the OCM Change Agent (CA).  Change Agents are one or more individuals from each of the Stakeholder Groups impacted that can act as an extension of the Project Team, enhancing 2-way communications between those directly impacted and the Project Team planning the timing and execution of the change.

Similar to the role of the EPMO Oversight PM (OPM) in providing best practices and State standard guidance to Project Managers, the OPM also provides OCM guidance to the PM.  The OPM will help the PM understand the objectives, use, and timing of the OCM processes, tools, and techniques, and where Change Agents are utilized, provide OCM training and guidance.

Integrating OCM and Project Management

The concepts of OCM and communicating often and early are not new, and you will quickly recognize where many of the templates and techniques naturally fit into your project process.  For example, notifying impacted Staff about an upcoming change seems fairly basic and common sense, however too often the timing and content of poorly planned communications require more effort in damage control and squelching rumors than should be necessary.

At the conclusion of the Exploring Phase, after an IT-ABC Form is signed and the IT-Activity has the authorization to advance to the Project Initiating Phase, OCM is introduced.

The following four sections identify the high level activities, templates, and resources used during the subsequent Initiating, Planning, Executing, and Closing Phases.  Of all the information presented next, the most important takeaway is to communicate early and often, and engage those impacted by the change into the process.

Initiating Phase OCM To-Do List:


1.   Meet with Project Sponsor

Sponsorship visibility and support are key to success, so it’s important to introduce the Project Sponsor to OCM early on.  With the Project Sponsor and business area, the PM documents the success criteria and the business's approach to measuring and tracking ongoing metrics (refer to ensuring metrics in place - Closing Phase), and then identifies all Stakeholder Groups (internal & external) and their Senior Leaders.  Following this, the PM can initiate and/or update the Stakeholder Register.

2.   Initial awareness message to Senior Leaders

To avoid being bombarded with questions they can’t yet answer, leaders are the first to be notified with the Initial Awareness Communication to Senior Leaders message about What is changing and Why, along with the anticipated benefits.  This message should come from the Project Sponsor, helping initiate and demonstrate support for the change from the top down across all impacted areas.  When applicable, included in this message will be an Impact Assessment Survey (for Leadership), a brief explanation of OCM, and a request for the names of a CA representative from their area.

3.   Analyze and compile survey results

The Project Team reviews the responses and processes the information received.  Activities include responding to questions, collating similar inquiries into Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s), and factoring feedback received into future project planning.  The PM will also capture any additional Stakeholder Groups and/or CAs identified.

Planning Phase OCM To-Do List:


1.   Review OCM and its objectives with Senior Stakeholders and CAs

The OPM and PM present an OCM Overview & Importance for Sponsorship to Senior Stakeholders.  This can be done as part of the Project Kickoff Meeting or thereafter and can be used to also identify any additionally required CAs.

Following the kickoff, the OPM and PM present the  OCM Overview for Change Agents to the CAs assigned.  CAs are instructed on their roles and responsibilities, and the activities to be performed during the project including their interactions with both the individuals from their areas impacted by the change, and the Project Team.  The PM will identify and associate each area impacted with its CA (i.e. Agency, Department{s}, Division{s}, external entities, etc.) to ensure coverage across all areas necessary.

2.   Estimate all required communications and draft OCM Plan

Using the OCM page of the Communication Matrix, the OPM, CAs and Project Team update the default list of anticipated OCM related meetings and communications required throughout the project and the what/why/who/when/and how to communicate.  As part of this activity, communication variables are estimated, including such items as objectives of message content, target audience, timing, and potential communication channels (email, newspaper, Town Hall Meetings, elevator and conference room posters, agency newsletters, radio, login messages, etc.).  The list is then plotted on a timeline to validate coverage in all areas of the ADKAR model (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement), and then added to the project schedule where applicable.  The project’s overall approach to OCM is then documented in an OCM Plan Section of the project Communication Management Plan, which may be part of an overall Project Management Plan.

3.   Establish a Centralized Location for General Project Information

Whenever possible, the Project Team should establish a web page on their Agency or Department web site, ADS's Project sites, or Vermont.Gov site for enterprise projects, for access by everyone impacted.  Because of licensing and required user accounts, the Team’s Sharepoint site is rarely used for this unless only a few people are impacted.  The page will link to archived communications and up-to-date project information including Project Status Reports, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s), Contact List, and the means to submit questions to the Project Team.  All further communications sent out end with a reference to this site.

4.   Initial Awareness Message to Everyone Impacted

Similar to the initial awareness message to Leadership, CAs assist in coordinating an Initial Awareness Communication to Everyone Impacted, and sent out from the Sponsor to explain What is changing and Why, and the anticipated benefits.  In addition, an Initial Assessment Survey (for everyone impacted) is sent along with this message.  This may be accomplished using any available survey tool or similar approach, providing a link to the Survey within the communication.

5.   Analyze and compile survey results

The Project Team reviews the responses and processes the information received.  Activities include responding to questions, collating similar inquiries and updating the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s), and factoring feedback received into future project planning.

6.   CAs Meet with Stakeholder Groups

Armed with important details, the CAs meet and communicate with their assigned coverage area, which may be an Agency, Department, Divisions within the Agency and/or external entity. Their goal is to initiate a 2-way dialog and validate that information communicated by the Project Team so far was understood by individuals.  At this time, they share what they know, answer what questions they can, and communicate the remaining questions and individual concerns back to the Project Team.  The Project Team in turn helps answer those outstanding questions and factor any other feedback or concerns into their project planning.

7.   Update List of Planned Communications

Now later in the planning phase when more details and better estimates are known, additional messages and/or refinements are made to the OCM Plan and list of planned communications, which may continue to be adjusted as needed throughout the remainder of the project. 

Executing Phase OCM To-Do List:


1.   Implement Repeatable Communications Channel

As the planned communications trigger dates occur, readied communications are sent out in accordance with the Project Communication Matrix to:

  • Help further the impacted staff’s desire to change, to be knowledgeable about the options and events to occur, and have the ability and opportunity to be successful.
  • Share information about expected improvements to business operations anticipated from the change, options for training and self-help, opportunities to help with testing and quality assurance, and details on the timing and coordination of upcoming events. 
  • Remind users how to obtain support where anticipated change may not go as planned, as well as new processes for initiating and/or obtaining support services.
  • Point users back to the project communication web page for more information and a way to contact the Project Team (especially useful for new staff that needs to catch up on information already communicated).

2.   PM/Project Team Manage Activities

The PM and/or Project Team Members all contribute to:

  • Responding to questions received directly from impacted stakeholders or CAs.
  • Managing risks and issues, and maintain related log files.
  • Tracking defects and work with applicable staff (i.e. Vendors) until resolved, while keeping impacted staff updated throughout resolution process
  • Working with CAs to send out both planned and unplanned communications.
  • Meeting with CAs to assess and discuss effectiveness of communication, and modify and/or update the Communications Plan, Communications Matrix, Schedule, and web site as needed.

3.   CA Support Continues

CAs follow up with Stakeholder Groups to;

  • Ensure intended message was received and understood, and that questions and concerns are communicated back to the PM and Project Team.
  • Confirm individuals obtained the training they required and that issues discovered in testing are reported for the Project Team to address.
  • Help to alleviate individual user frustration, especially when CAs understand the business operations and how to apply that training to potential changes in business processes.
  • Help the Project Team understand the challenges the change may be introducing to some areas (square peg in a round hole), and assist with revisions to planning and workarounds that ultimately help with timeliness and completing objectives.
  • Where aspects of projects don’t go as planned, assist with adhoc communications to advise those impacted.  It is often best to keep people updated, even when it may not be good news; people appreciate knowing what’s happened and what’s being done to correct the situation until resolved.
  • Confirm change has been completed and get Formal Acceptance documents signed.
  • Publish periodic project status reports to Sponsor and Key Stakeholders.

Closing Phase OCM To-Do List:


1.   CAs assist post implementation

CAs help confirm outstanding issues were resolved and assist the Project Team in validating their corrective actions get re-tested by those reporting the problems.   When troubles have occurred, the CAs also help by ensuring the impacted areas are kept updated, especially where large scale communications are not warranted. 

2.   Lessons Learned

CAs and OPMs are included in the Lessons Learned to help identify what aspects of OCM worked well and should be repeated, and what parts could be done better next time.  This information is used as part of the continuous improvement to the OCM processes developed and maintained by the EPMO.

3.   Celebrate successes and recognize top performers

Recognition of individuals and groups alike help reinforce the change, and confirm that transformation is achievable.  Focusing on the positive aspects of the change encourage those impacted to continue their further utilization and eventual expertise with the change.  Where individuals stood out (often pointed out during Lessons Learned), reward those behaviors to encourage similar efforts on future endeavors.

4.   Final message and survey (how did we do?)

The Project Team sends out the final communication with a Customer Satisfaction Survey to confirm for all Stakeholder Groups that the project is officially completed, and request the completion of a brief survey targeted at learning if the OCM and PM processes applied were helpful in achieving their objectives.

5.   Analyze feedback, advise Sponsors and EPMO

Done in conjunction with PM processes and similar to the Lessons Learned feedback, the information obtained is compiled and used to identify what worked well and should be repeated, and what parts could be done better next time (especially as it relates to OCM).  This information is used as part of the continuous improvement to the processes developed and maintained by the EPMO.

6.   CAs Assist to Ensure Metrics in Place

Reinforcement of such a change is proven when metrics are established and periodic measurements observed.  By evaluating data points (i.e. elapsed time on customer service calls, total days to process a case or obtain services, etc.) shows where improvements are gained and previous customer support levels are resumed.  When expected levels are not achieved, metrics can also help pinpoint areas where potential re-training or more attention may be needed, or a potential change in corresponding business processes (for example, a new on-line registration portal may work great but unaware customers may still be submitting paper applications that require unnecessary manual processing).


More Information:

Prosci® web site.

ADKAR® Model on Prosci web site.

ADKAR® Book by Jeff Hiatt, as referenced on Prosci web site to be a solid reference for every change management professional.