7 important questions to consider before setting up a change management office

28 August 2018
Article written by Annika Lagoni

A Change Management Office (CMO) is a function with the purpose of providing the organisation with a structured approach and a set of tools to manage the people side of changes. Having a CMO can lead to stunning benefits for the organisation. These include that projects meet (and often exceed) their objectives, realising return on investments and maturing the discipline of Change Management in organisation. The benefits are the argument for establishing a CMO.
Setting up a CMO is, however, not a straightforward matter. On the contrary there are a variety of approaches that can lead to success – or failure for that matter. So how do you know what elements you should take into account? While there are no one-size-fits-all templates or roadmaps for how to create a successful CMO there are seven questions you should always ask yourself when establishing a Change Management Office:

1. What are the responsibilities of the CMO?

Your organisation should make decisions about the responsibilities of your CMO based on how change happens in your organisation and how to position the CMO. When looking at Prosci®’s 2018 Best Practice report, interviewing Danish companies about their experiences and reading the latest literature, we can cluster following roles and responsibilities for the CMO:
1. Identify and choose a Change Management methodology and processes. Adjust and fit the methods to create internal best practices.
2. Create a common Change Management language and align expectations for roles at different levels the organisation.
3. Maintain a portfolio overview of all planned and current projects and change initiatives. This makes you capable of tracking and reporting on change progress.
4. Be a resource centre and provide Change Management support and training for projects.

2. How should you organise the CMO?

There are two things to consider regarding how to organise your CMO.
First, where to place the CMO in the organisation? Wherever you decide to locate the CMO, it should be where it can effectively support projects across the organisation, and where it has sufficient support and commitment from one or more executive sponsors.
Secondly, you need to consider whether the Change Management resources should be centralised or decentralised. In a centralised structure resources are primarily owned and located in the CMO and the change resources are lent out to specific projects. When the project is finished, or the Change Management role is complete, the resources return to the CMO to be allocated to other project. In the decentralised structure, the resources are hired and owned by either the project itself or in the business areas. The resources have Change Management competencies but may need support from the CMO to implement the standard methodology and tools.
There are several criteria, which can be used to help determine which model to use. Perhaps the most commonly used is to align it with the culture in the organisation.

3. What size should the CMO be?

Our rule-of-thumb is that a CMO, regardless of structure and organising, should consist of at least 3-5 people to have the critical mass needed for carrying out the roles of a CMO. This is consistent with Prosci®’s Best Practice report (2018), which shows that the majority of the organisations with a CMO contains 2-5 employees as illustrate in the figure below.



4. What should our governance model be like?

One of the most important things the CMO can do to improve organisational change maturity, is to develop and use a strong governance model. The governance model specifies how and when to apply Change Management on change projects. The governance model could, as an example, include three levels:

• Mandatory projects: The governance model could prescribe which projects should or must use Change Management actively. Criteria for selection could for instance be the total project costs or overall impact on the organisation.
• Mandatory activities: The projects which meet the above criteria would then be required to do some mandatory activities, like a comprehensive risk analysis or participate in review meetings with a representative from the CMO etc.
• Mandatory requirements: Finally, the selected projects could then be given certain requirements, such as to get Change Management resources assigned from the CMO and on-going CM review.

5. What should our CMO's succes criterias be?

While it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of a CMO it is important to identify and work towards longer-term strategic goals for the CMO itself. These could be to e.g. increase the enterprise Change Management maturity level or that CMO staff should build strong relationships with their stakeholders.

6. Do we have the right people & competencies ? 

A solid methodology and great tools and templates are only valuable if the right people use them and introduce them to the organisation competently. From Prosci®’s Best Practice report (2018), we know that the most important attributes of a great Change Management team member, in ranked order, are:

1. Excellent communication skills.
2. Change Management competency
3. Flexibility
4. Interpersonal skills
5. Business understanding

7. How do we integrate the CMO with the project management?

Change Management and Project Management ultimately work towards the same goal: to deliver project results and to realise the intended benefits of the projects. And one cannot succeed without the other. For instance, if the project is late or poorly implemented, it doesn’t matter if the organisation is ready and motivated to embrace and use the solution, and vice versa. In either case, the benefit realisation will be significantly below what is expected.
Both sides must have their own focus and KPIs for the outcome of the project. The project team must be held accountable for delivering the right solution on time, within budget while the change team must be held accountable for ensuring that the organisation is motivated and ready. Evidence shows that the highest project success rate is when Change Management and Project Management work well together.

Be in the know

Join the community to receive the latest articles on Change Management, upcoming events and exclusive newsletter.

We guarantee 100% privacy. Your personal details will not be shared to third party partners.

Be in the know

Join the community to receive the latest thought change management articles, upcoming events and exclusive newsletter

Don't ask me anymore