What You Need to Know About ITIL 4’s Organizational Change Management Practice

InvGate November 19, 2020
- 4 min read

Have you ever stopped to wonder why the very diligent implementation of new technology – to time, cost, and quality – doesn’t deliver the expected benefits? IT self-service capabilities are usually a great example – with only limited adoption by employees (with it, therefore, difficult to realize the anticipated return on investment). There might be a variety of reasons that this happens, with a common one being the lack of recognition of the technology implementation being a people change because it affects the traditional ways of working. Consequently, there’s limited or no investment in organizational change management tools and techniques. 

This is recognized in the latest version of ITIL, ITIL 4, with the inclusion of a new “general management practice” on organizational change management. If you want to find out more about organizational change management, and quickly, then this blog is for you. 

Defining organizational change management 

The relevant ITIL 4 Practice Guide clearly explains what organizational change management is: 

“The purpose of the organizational change management practice is to ensure that changes in an organization are implemented smoothly and successfully, and that lasting benefits are achieved by managing the human aspects of the changes.” 

Source: ITIL 4 Organizational Change Management Practice Guide PDF 

Which recognizes that people are essential to most successful transformations – with the word “transformation” key. This is: 

“… a different way of working. It involves changes in beliefs, values, and wishes. Transformation results shift in the organizational system and as a result, in personal and organizational behavior.” 

It’s therefore important for your organization to differentiate between simple change and transformation, with the latter likely requiring the use of the people-focused tools and techniques of organizational change management. 


ITIL 4’s organizational change principles 

So, you’ve decided that a certain technology implementation is a transformation, not a change, given the impact it has on traditional ways of working. Then what? To help, ITIL 4 lays out five principles that will help guide the organizational change required within the transformation of the status quo. Importantly, these need to be tailored to your organization and the transformation at hand. 

  • Principle #1: Clear and relevant objectives. Based on the vision and values of the organization, there must be value for different stakeholder groups including employees. 
  • Principle #2: Strong and committed leadership. Here the potential complexity needs to be considered and, consequently, leadership might need to be flexible rather than fixed. 
  • Principle #3: Willing and prepared participants. Where a shift is needed from overcoming employees’ resistance to supporting organizational improvement. 
  • Principle #4: Demonstrated value. Stakeholders must be confident in the offered value (of the organizational change) and be able to see the value once achieved. Communication is key here. 
  • Principle #5: Sustained improvement. Every part of your organization should be open to feedback and for improvement.  

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Organizational change management practice success factors 

Practice success factors are included for every ITIL 4 management practice. They allow you to appreciate what success should look like. In the case of organizational change management, the practice success factors include: 

  • “Creating and maintaining a change-enabling culture across the organization 
  • Establishing and maintaining a holistic approach and continual improvement for organizational change management 
  • Ensuring organizational changes are realized in an effective manner, leading to stakeholders’ satisfaction and meeting compliance requirements.” 

Source: ITIL 4 Organizational Change Management Practice Guide PDF 


What does this all mean in practice? 

The practice guide contains a lot of detail related to organizational change management metrics, processes and activities, key roles, and how technology helps. Plus, the Managing Professional Direct, Plan and Improve publication contains a section called “Basics of OCM.”  

In this section, guidance is given on dealing with resistance to change – a key blocker to change or transformation success. Managing this resistance is a key tenet of organizational change management approaches, tools, and techniques. Because there’ll always likely be resistance to change, no matter how obvious you might think the benefits of that change to be. People will resist change for a variety of reasons, including: 

  • Preferring the known to the unknown 
  • Seeing the new state as being less beneficial and/or riskier than the current state 
  • Not understanding the need, or reasons, for change (including being “left out of the loop” in terms of communications)  
  • Previous poor change experiences 
  • Change fatigue – caused by too many, or perhaps even a consistent stream of, changes. 

The Direct, Plan and Improve book suggests ways in which to identify and to manage resistance. With the latter including: 

  • Involving those affected in decision making 
  • Providing education on the need for the change and what it means to them (including the “What’s in it for me?”) 
  • Making answers to frequently asked questions easily accessible 
  • Delivering targeted communications that address key concerns 
  • Demonstrating the benefits via the communication of quick wins. 

Another key piece of guidance is that a common technique to apply is the creation of a sense of urgency in stakeholders – because simply understanding the need for a change might be insufficient to engender the change. Here the cons of the as-is state and the pros of the future state are communicated in a way that sells the urgency of the need to change. 

So, that’s our quick overview of organizational change management through an ITIL 4 lens. What else would you like to know? Or what advice would you give to other readers? Please let us know in the comments.

Read other articles like this : ITIL, Change Management

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