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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