Essence of the difference between OD and Change Management

The goal of this post is to pinpoint the essential  difference between Change Management and OD.

Let us take as an example the implementation of shift from a functional structure (F) to a matrix structure  (M)

Change management puts together a plan to “manage” the change, migrating various components like roles, responsibilities and processes systematically from F to M. The role of the change management is akin to the PMO of the “change” project, which has a beginning and an end. The change plan has milestones and deliverables, which can be measured.

The Change Manager will report periodically to the CEO on progress. The CEO will see in the Change Manager  a key staff function.

The only problem is that change cannot be “managed” in such a manner, albeit the very marketable pitch than change management has developed and sold to managers interested in apparent control.

The major focus of the OD practitioner is to remove resistance to change,  in order to enable a constant and ongoing dynamic reconfiguration of the way work gets done in response to external threats.  For OD, the critical success factor is ability of the organization to serve as a “pliable platform” to effectively adapt.  Thus, F to M  is a window of opportunity to develop organizational flexibility. Obstacles that should be addressed to gain organizational flexibility include power, politics, “what’s in it for me”, lack of involvement, and the whole unseen “underworld” of assumptions that staff have about their behaviour.  Once these issues are dealt with, the “change” will happen. Change management may want to deal with these issues, but do not know how.

The OD consultant will constantly focus management on dealing with the hidden dynamic which hinders flexibility. The Change Manager will appease management by showing everything is under control.

The CEO sees the change manager as a partner and then as a buffoon, blaming the CM for resistance.

The CEO sees  the OD consultant as a pain in the ass at times, and not easy to manage, Yet via trust and dialogue, the CEO and OD consultant serve as midwife to change, as melting resistance enables the organization to unfold, once again.

For the OD practitioner, Change Management models and formats are  great tool kits to have. They are highly marketable and add apparent effectiveness.

After several years on the road, most change managers agree with OD about the underlying dynamic, but they are not in the plumbing business.

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14 thoughts on “Essence of the difference between OD and Change Management

  1. Ways of looking at resistance:
    • There is no resistance, only feedback.
    • There is no movement without resistance. It’s how you travel on a bicycle.
    • Resistance is a way of saying: “I am not sure of myself, others and the situation.”
    • One resists proportionally to his or her fear of loosing something.

  2. The post is somewhat misguided. The talk of “change management is akin to the PMO” is absolute rubbish … it is nothing of the sort. I think you are confusing Change Management with Project Management. Change Management is always about people and whilst there are “hard” deliverables in the main Change Management deals with the “soft” stuff e.g. “remove resistance to enable a constant and ongoing dynamic reconfiguration of the way work gets done in response to external threats”.

    • Ron,
      Thanks for the friendly approach.
      I am confusing nothing.
      The position of the change manager is that of a staff officer, driving a a structured approach to “managing/implementing change” smoothly.
      The term Change Management is very marketable; the deliveries are enticing.
      However, it is to some extent a box without code, coupled with poor positioning and lack of depth.
      Thus the failure record.
      Thanks for reading my posts.

    • Robin
      For me the list became poisonous. I miss neither the pomposity nor the limited tunnel vision of some of the protagonists.
      Least, I miss the righteousness of some decision makers.

  3. Change is like a three legged stool. There is the planning leg, change managment (implementation) leg, and a transition managment leg (managing the people side. It’s not a stool unless there is a flat seat tying them together. I don’t think change can be successful unless you are conscious of all three as you work through one. As an OD consultant/practioner I’m involved in all the aspects, as a facilitator during the planning, coach during the implementation and transition stages, and often a trainer.
    I suggest reading Managing Transitions – Making the Most of Change by William Bridges, PhD. and Switch – How to Change When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath.

  4. For me, change is organic, like having a baby. When conception occurs, a chain reaction begins. It can be scary! The mother’s body metamorphs into something strange yet amazing, a vessel for new life. There is a long period of slow yet necessary development. You can’t wait for it to be over. Then the process of labor starts. It can be utter agony. Once the baby is in your arms, you instantly forget the pain you went through. Your tears of suffering turn to tears of joy and love. I doubt a Change Mgmt practitioner would look at change this way. It takes a true OD practitioner to recognize this messy yet vital view.

  5. Pingback: Change is not a project that can be managed (revised Dec 18) | Allon Shevat

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