Lasting Organizational Change: How to Improve the Odds of Achieving It

4 minute read

Never underestimate the magnitude of the forces that reinforce complacency and that help maintain the status quo. 

—John Kotter

Many companies are alarmed by the phrase Organizational Change Management (OCM). Research shows that OCM and transformation often fail to meet expectations. Success requires careful planning and execution. OCM is daunting, and that’s why achieving it creates competitive advantage. OCM is about executing on a business strategy so the organization can progress. In other words, the company cannot get to where it wants to go without OCM success. 

There was a day when you could take your time creating OCM or the larger goal of transformation, but no more. The digitization of the world travels by jet while too many companies are still polishing their steam ships. OCM is not a nice-to-have venture anymore; it is an imperative to profit leadership. There is an extensive list of failed or acquired companies who refused to change or managed change poorly. Even if it’s something in the back office, when we speak of OCM success, we can position it as an operating advantage. 

New systems that receive high adoption will change companies. Not only does the system help mold the business and its culture, but more accurate and shared data can create new speed in the company’s fortunes. Unfortunately, there are natural barriers to arriving at the land of enchantment. Let’s discuss how we can work through them.


Have an Achievable Plan – Know your goals for the short- and long-term. Set your objectives and know the measured behavioral results you require. The management challenge is to stretch the organization while staying within the field of achievable. Some businesses will never be able to move fast or bold enough. It’s just not in their cultural DNA. Your business model, e.g., asset management model vs. intangible products model will also have a lot to say about the organization’s change velocity. By understanding your plan, you may find gaps in your execution ability. Better to know your weaknesses now before you are six months into the journey.


Articulate the Financial “So What?” – The days of winging it are over for business leaders who want to keep their jobs. You need a CFO-ready airtight business case showing desired economic outcomes. For instance, a tailored ServiceNow business case makes perfect sense. With a strong business case, you understand the risk with the proper perspective. What is the risk if we move forward and what is the risk if we do nothing? For a large OCM journey, don’t kid yourself. You will need the business case over the next three to five years when people challenge the original assumptions. Like a flashlight in your glove compartment, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.


Get Your Support Lined Up – Your C-level support for the vision must be obvious for OCM to gain traction. Optics matter. Ideally, the organization’s leadership team needs to have some piece of the OCM embedded in their objectives. Find ways to include your OCM updates in leadership meetings. Build a steering committee with the right alliances across the impact of the OCM so not only do you have evangelism, you’ve got fresh ideas coming in to strengthen the narrative. 


Over-communicate Why OCM Must Happen – Let everyone know on a cadence through different internal media and documents the business value of OCM including an internal newsletter for users. Especially educate through communication on any short-term wins. These early victories inspire confidence. You are now socializing the OCM’s frame of reference, so employees can see the vision. When employees tell you that they are tired of hearing about the change, that’s when you are making headway. Find common areas like the kitchen to reinforce the pithy messaging through visuals. Think of it like a buyer who must be told several times in different ways before they truly get the marketing message. People are distracted. Let them repeatedly know that this OCM is happening, how they participate, and lasting change is the only option. 


Knowledge Management and Training – If you are going to change behaviors and create internal evangelists, you must give employees the tools to be successful. OCM success requires thoughtful training. You will want a mix of in-person group training, online training, and individual instruction to energize the learning. This training combined with your over-communication will deepen mindshare. You’ll be helping them do today what they couldn’t do yesterday. Building Intranets linking to internal and external knowledge is also smart. The one thing your ServiceNow team isn’t going to want to be doing is answering the same basic 20 questions repeatedly. Having an FAQ on your internal portal will have a dramatic impact on support—or better yet, in your self-service knowledge base. The internal resource page also gives you the opportunity to house video, podcasts, share success stories, and get feedback. 


Measure for Insight – Talking about business results without metrics is too speculative. It is amazing how many high-level executives still decide based on anecdotal evidence and gut reactions. I wouldn’t try an uninformed opinion in the world’s best-run companies. Sure, there are some qualitative areas we cannot measure, but this is not true for most things digital. We want to change behavior. Metrics help us achieve influence in three important levels; the individual, the team, and the overall company. What are the metrics at those three levels we will track and how do they signal behavioral change is happening? Do we have the proper incentives to improve those metrics? Once we get the metrics, how do we distribute those results to the appropriate leaders and evangelists in the company?

Taking it a step further, how do we create insight from the key measurable results we are gathering? Data is great, but it needs to tell a story for those with little time. Like market research, we must tell leadership what ServiceNow means for the company and the strategy we are looking to serve. Remember, companies steer resources to investments when the key results are exceeding expectations.


Get Known – Someone in your company, maybe you, must be joined at the hip to the OCM journey. Yes, it’s great to hear everyone’s opinion, but someone must make decisions to keep things moving and not veer from the path. Choose progress over perfection. If someone is known for the OCM journey, employees know where to go with their concerns, ideas, and praise. If everyone owns the OCM effort, but no one is in charge, other priorities will pull energy away. Like all things in life, there must be personal accountability. Make employees aware who the leader of the OCM journey is and how to communicate with the leader. Finally, in all the key areas written about here, know who on your core team is responsible. 


OCM is a Mandate for the Modern Organization

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Ferris was right in this 1986 movie, and he’s more right today because the world is moving faster, with exponential computing power, pervasive sharing, and more precision. Remember, many OCM efforts fail to achieve long-term success and meet expectations. Successful adoption sets you apart if your company can turn OCM into a core competency. The financial benefits of ServiceNow have been made clear by analyst firms such as IDC and Forrester. The returns grow and accelerate when a company has a mature approach to change management and is invested to ensure its success.

This blog was originally published on

Written by: John Ryan | Crossfuze CMO

Connect with John on LinkedIn and Twitter

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