Doing OCM to Invoke OCM

Organisational change management (OCM) practitioners would love to work in an environment where every project incorporated OCM without even thinking about it!

However, many of us work in environments where OCM is not even considered or is an afterthought.

The Situation

A project is fully underway and steaming ahead. The following conversations take place:

Program manager: ‘Have you engaged OCM on this project?’

Project manager: ‘What’s OCM?’


Program manager: ‘Have you engaged OCM on this project?’

Project manager: ‘No – we don’t have time for that fluffy stuff’


Program manager: ‘Have you engaged OCM on this project?’

Project manager: ‘Just about to do so?’

Program manager: ‘And remind me, what’s your go live date?’

Project manager: ‘Next week’

Any of those sound familiar? Unfortunately, they happen all too often and there are many more variations of those conversations.

So how do we get project managers and project leads to realise that OCM is an integral part of every project and needed for project success.


We need to do OCM to get projects to do OCM!

Yes, asking projects to ensure OCM is considered from the earliest stages of a project is asking them to do something different. So as with any stakeholder we need to transition them through change so that OCM involvement becomes business as usual.

I do not intend to describe the entire OCM process here from preparing for change, managing change and reinforcing it. Rather I would like to explore a key aspect of OCM that could be used to get the projects on board.

Understand the Frame of Reference

A frame of reference is the set of beliefs, values, attitudes that we use to perceive a situation. We look at situations through this frame which effects how we infer and understand situations.

Think about a situation and how one person will see it as glass half empty whilst another will see if as glass half full. Whether it’s perceived as half empty or half full is based on the frame of reference.

People’s perceptions are their reality and they expect it to be the reality for others as well.

Our OCM challenge is to try and reframe. In order to do this we need to step back from what a person is saying and doing, and consider the frame through which their reality is being created. If we can understand the unspoken assumptions we can then consider alternative frames. In essence we are saying – ‘Let us look at this in another way’.

To understand the frame of reference we need to:

·      Actively listen

·      Keep an open mind

·      Don’t impose your frame of reference on the other person

·      Accept what the other person says whether you agree or not – it’s their frame of reference which is their reality

·      Be open to changing your own frame of reference

·      Restate your understanding of the person’s viewpoint


I couldn’t describe the process of framing better than Daryl Conner. Conner sums up reframing as:

‘Reframing involves focusing a person’s attention on the same information previously available, but helping him or her view it differently so the implications can be recalibrated. Through “reframing,” new options are made possible that would otherwise not be feasible or acceptable to the person. (The picture of the frog below, if viewed from a different perspective, contains a second image)’.


You can see the second (reframed) image at the end of this post.

Conner describes how you can reframe as:

‘A person’s frame of reference (FOR) is made up of six components. You can foster a shift in someone’s FOR by applying one or more of them.

  • Definition: A depiction of how the situation could be viewed in order for the change to appear more desirable. Often, the way a situation is defined limits the range of solutions. For example, is the person facing an “opportunity,” a “problem,” a “dilemma,” or a “hassle”?
  • History: An explanation of events leading up to a current situation that allows the change to appear more viable. (If certain factors from the past are not identified appropriately, the desired effect may not be achieved.)
  • Meaning: An interpretation of key events, circumstances, or information that shows the change has more benefits than were previously apparent.
  • Purpose: A description of what a person wants to achieve that supports the need to change. (For example, people often do not realize that their true agenda is not to find a solution to a problem, but to vent anger, protect turf, or achieve some other goal.)
  • Expectations: A portrayal of what could be anticipated that would justify the change.
  • Requirements: Clarifying what it will take for the desired outcome to be accomplished. (Many people feel they cannot commit the resources required for change. However, a more complete understanding of the cost for not changing may make the cost of change seem affordable.)


So let’s explore what could be the frame of reference for a project manager / leader in regards to OCM and how we could attempt to reframe it using a few of the components mentioned above.

What could the conversation look like? (Please note these are fictional examples to demonstrate reframing).

These are just a few examples for reframing and I am sure you can think of many more based on your experience in trying to convince projects that they need OCM.


We need people to see things from a different perspective.

When the picture of the frog is turned counter-clockwise 90 degrees, what was a frog is now a horse’s head!


We need project managers not only to understand the benefits that OCM will bring to their projects but also understand how they in turn can contribute to OCM. At the end of the day, change is everyone’s business!

Reframing is very much an integral part of resistance management and is just one of the tools we can use within that OCM activity.

Projects will always deliver changes, but only with OCM will they bring about the transitions required for the project to be a success.

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