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Change Practitioners & Organizational Change Management (OCM): The Heartbeat of Progress

Managing the community’s expectations of change can be a difficult obstacle for a project to overcome, and this only becomes more true for large projects. Change practitioners play a key role in facilitating this change. The Enterprise Systems Renewal (ESR) Student Information System (SIS) Project has brought on board several change practitioners to help guide our campus through the implementation of multiple new student-related systems. There was once only one change practitioner on the SIS Project team, but as the project has matured, the number of practitioners needed has grown. Our change practitioner team currently consists of Angie Gozum, Joana Halnez, Channing Serio, Joe Gandini and Tina Duke. Please follow the SIS Project Core Team page to put faces to the names!

As change practitioners, we apply organizational change management (OCM) methodology to support the UC San Diego community through change. We develop and execute project OCM, which includes communications and engagements via various channels, including training and coaching content, refining and/or developing other content for various audiences, and ensuring the voice of the customer is heard and incorporated into project plans. 

The beautiful part of this work is that we do not do it alone–we are part of an incredibly dynamic and dedicated team of OCM professionals who collaborate, value each other’s opinions and support one another. We have collected and consolidated our thoughts about the role, what we have learned and what we aim to accomplish. We hope that these reflections provide you with a glimpse into our work and our values as well as the importance of OCM at UC San Diego.

What Does Being a Change Practitioner Mean To You?

Before becoming change practitioners, we each experienced and assisted with system changes in our previous roles even if we didn’t gain formal OCM experience. Through guided mentorship, education and self-discovery in our roles as change practitioners, we have unveiled the intricate and complex layers of OCM methodology. It guides us to better understand how to initialize and lead lasting change in organizations as large and impactful as UC San Diego, and it provides us the tools to be able to do so. 

“To me,” Angie says, “being a change practitioner means two things–first, being a facilitator of change and helping others through a change process; and second, being an example of best practices for implementing change strategy. Empathy, inclusion, creativity, reliability and accountability are the key values I try to instill and model in my work as a change practitioner.”

“For me, it means being a catalyst for organizational evolution and helping the community navigate the changes. It involves understanding not only the intricacies of the organization, but also the unique needs of each group within the organization,” Channing explains.

Joana adds, “Being a change practitioner means being adaptable and approachable. A lot of our work is building and maintaining communications and relationships across campus.”

“My goal is that we lead the change in a way that is equitable and includes everyone in the process,” Joe mentions. “It is important to me that our work takes the point of view of everyone, especially including underrepresented groups, into serious and thoughtful consideration.”

Tina also shares that “by considering all viewpoints, we can ensure that everyone has a say on impactful change and that implementing OCM tools and processes to drive that change goes smoothly.” Furthermore, she adds, “I firmly believe that working together creates a culture of inclusivity, where everyone's voice is heard and valued, which is essential for success.”

At its essence, it is quite simple: without people, there is no OCM. We prioritize the needs of people because people are the center of OCM work. As change practitioners, we place incredible value on practicing active listening, inclusion, and empathy.

What Has The Team Learned About Being A Change Practitioner? 

In our varying lengths of time as change practitioners, we have learned a few key lessons that have helped shape our approach to OCM and the values that guide our work.

Tina, who is the most professionally experienced change practitioner of us all, shares the following: “Throughout my career as a change management practitioner, I have gained valuable insights into the complexities of implementing effective change across different sectors. Despite the distinct characteristics of each sector, I have found that the challenges faced in managing change are remarkably similar. From business to non-profit, government to education, the underlying issues and obstacles that must be navigated to achieve successful change are often quite comparable.” 

To that point, Joe adds “Through leading changes in the healthcare setting and now in a higher education setting, I have learned that effective change is brought about by active listening to stakeholders and taking an empathetic approach to understanding their concerns. Ongoing communication with those stakeholders must always be clear and honest to build trust and to encourage openness to the change process.”

Additionally, Channing and Angie’s lessons focus on the importance of communication. “I have learned,” Channing says, “that effective communication is paramount. Not just disseminating information, but crafting narratives that resonate with individuals at all levels.” 

Angie adds, “I’ve learned that everyone wants to be heard and they want their concerns validated. Also, everyone really appreciates transparency–it isn’t always about having the answer, but it is about communicating honestly.”

What Are The Challenges Of OCM Work?

I think we can all agree that change can be challenging. No matter the reason for the change, there will likely be waves of caution and optimism. However, each wave is an opportunity for growth and development – for reevaluating, changing course, and doing something better. Within our own OCM team, we are constantly pivoting and adjusting our plans based on what we are hearing and learning from the university community.

Joe explains that “the challenge is that while our goals are the same, the ways in which we want to reach those goals may differ. As change practitioners, we have to use our tools for change in a proactive and empathetic way so that we can guide the change appropriately and bring everyone with us along the way.”

Channing’s juxtaposition of the challenge and benefit of being a change practitioner resonates with the rest of the team. She says that “[a] challenge as a change practitioner is navigating the people side of change. We are all naturally wary of the unknown, and addressing any concerns is crucial. On the flip side, the real joy is witnessing the positive impact on individuals and the organization when change is managed effectively.” 

What Do You Want The University Community To Know About OCM?

As we wrap up our thoughts about OCM and being change practitioners, we wanted to leave you with the following aspirations and values of OCM, highlighting how OCM extends beyond the SIS Project.

Joana: “At the center of OCM is people. It’s really important that we keep people (whether that be students, faculty, staff or all of them) in mind when implementing changes.”

Joe: “Better necessarily implies different but different does not necessarily imply better. Change is how we can get to something different. Organizational change management allows us to achieve something better.“ 

Angie: “OCM can be done for any type of change–even small changes within our own departments or units or daily lives. Using OCM as a framework can help to ease doubts regarding the change and ensure all perspectives are considered and accounted for before making a change.”

Tina: “OCM is not about doing the fluffy, fun stuff; it is a science that uses a framework and structured approach to guide the community through the change process, and research has shown that projects with good change management are more likely to have successful outcomes.”  

Channing: “I want the UCSD community to recognize that OCM is not just a checkbox in a project plan; it's the heartbeat of progress. OCM is about valuing the people side of initiatives and understanding that, ultimately, the success of any change effort rests on the collective shoulders of those supporting, working on and being impacted by the change. Embracing OCM is an investment in the resilience and prosperity of the entire university.”

As change practitioners, we are here to help guide the university community through multiple substantial system changes and ensure that every voice is heard. You may have already worked with some of us on a project. We look forward to helping you through the change.

Category: Student & Faculty, News