Projects and Change

Jim Murphy and the Mass Bay OD folks have another very intriguing question on their blog: How can the disciplines and practitioners of Organization Development and of Project Management cooperate and learn from one another?

I think there are many opportunities, but the big one is around Change.

Both OD and PM practitioners are focused on, and concerned about, change. For OD practitioners, change is our sine qua non: OD folk are brought in to facilitate some change that will improve the organization.

PM practitioners, who are endeavoring to successfully deliver a process or technical solution that will improve their client's operation, understand that change must be managed. Any change in scope, budget, or timeline will have a direct impact on the ability to deliver, as well as upon the deliverable.

But change is more that that. Change is emotional. The Number One reason that so many projects fail is people issues, including what I'd call The Titanic Effect: The iceberg you see before you is only the visible tip of the massive danger hidden below the waterline.

This is an area where PM practioners can benefit from OD.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, January 10, 2008

Comments

Chris Rodgers said…
Hi Terrence,

With only around a one-in-three success rate, something vital is clearly missing from most models that currently inform change-leadership practice. Almost invariably, prescriptions place most emphasis on changing the formal and structured elements of the organisation - its processes, systems and structures - and on getting these ‘right’ through rational analysis, project management techniques and detailed implementation programmes. Too often, this approach is then carried over into the less tangible elements of organisational change, such as the cultural dynamics of the organisation or the challenge of building commitment to change. These are also often treated as separate work streams in a formal project plan.

However, I agree with you that change is much more than this. Organisations don’t follow the same rules as inanimate structures, systems and machines. Instead, they are made up of dynamic networks of people interacting with each other. And people have a habit of not conforming to the mechanistic assumptions that still channel much of the mainstream management thinking about organisational change and performance. The values and practices of OD can clearly help to shift the balance towards the more people-oriented aspects of organizational change. At the same time, though, I would argue that formal plans and processes – whether informed by PM or OD principles – too often fail to address crucial aspects of real-world organisations that managers experience every day. Other, ever-present features of organisational life - such as the impact of power and politics, the critical importance and impact of informal processes, and the implications of paradox - tend to be dealt with superficially or ignored altogether.
Terrence Seamon said…
Well said, Chris. You should post this at your blog? Do you have a blog?

Thanks for stopping by.
Regards,
Terry

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