Operations or HR: Where Does Accountability for Change Management Belong?

There are competing ideas about where accountability for change management belongs in an organization.

Some organizations are attaching it to the Human Resources department as a people consideration, while others have clearly indicated it belongs to the Operations department, as they feel it’s about business outcomes. Which is right?

Human Resources

Many will argue that HR is a natural home for change management in an organization, as, at the end of the day, both functions focus on people either as individuals or as homogeneous groups. The proponents of ‘HR is the right home’ for change management are further supported by the fact that a large number of HR professionals have found an affinity with and home in change management and have made a career choice to move there.

This view isn’t without its merits.

Operations

Opponents of that school of thought will say HR is not the right home as HR is transactional and organizational change management (OCM) is transformational. I don’t think it’s that black or white rather shades of gray. However, I do lean towards Operations being the right home for Change Management. Here are the reasons why:

  1. In today’s world, it’s pretty widely accepted that how well people adopt and adapt to change is a critical factor in success and failure of organizational strategy.
    • If change management is a strategic driver, it’s necessary for it to be housed in the heart of an organization, i.e. Operations; OCM can then be used to drive change from the inside.
    • HR may be tagged as a support function, so when change is housed there, there may be a dilution of importance.
  2. Change Management needs to play a big part in determining an organization’s initiative portfolio, mitigating business risks – easier led by operations, through consideration of:
    • Change Fatigue
    • Saturation
    • Organizational Resilience
    • Change Capacity
    • Change Capability

Locating change management within Operations allows these factors to shape change to fit an organization’s goals, while still meeting their people’s needs.

  • It’s also important to consider who actually owns the change once it has been implemented:
  • Who is accountable for the new behaviours that actually deliver real change?
  • Who follows a new process, uses a new IT system, complies with new regulations etc.?

In most cases that is Operations and that also makes them a natural fit for OCM accountability.

Having said that, as long as an organization recognizes the importance of, and takes action to incorporate change management into their business environment, it’s not earth-shattering as to where it starts. As an organization matures in their OCM capability I believe it will ultimately find a way to the right home.

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