Change Management Meets Organization Development

“Is Change Management the New OD? What’s the Connection and Who Cares?“

That was the topic I was recently asked to address as part of a panel at a DFW Organization Development Network event a couple of weeks ago. We had a very robust dialogue that day. Over 40 people joined over lunch at the American Airlines HQ.

What do you think about the two fields of practice? How do you feel like they relate to one another? I’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions in the comments below.

Those of us on the panel at the DFW ODN event generally agreed that change management (or change leadership, as I prefer to refer to it) is a subset of organization development more holistically. As a field, it has grown out of the massive technology implementations which were primarily driven by ERP solutions, but now applies to projects both large and small which may or may not be technology-related.

We also agreed that our clients get thoroughly confused by all of the jargon those of us who are practitioners throw around. In some ways and in certain situations it’s helpful to differentiate one’s skills. But most clients don’t care if you view yourself as working in Learning & Development, Human Capital, Organization Development, Organization Effectiveness, Human Resources, Change Leadership, or pick-a-new-flavor.

What clients care about are:

  • Eliminating pain points
  • Producing business results

Period! (Well, of course, they care too about the price tag / level of effort involved, but that’s a post for another day . . .)

The rare client insists on a particular methodology to apply, diagnostic instrument to use, or framework for approaching the transformation initiative. Most just seek the reassurance that you have one. It doesn’t matter so much which one it is.

Far too many practitioners, internal or external consultants – both are equally as guilty in my view – get hung up on various tools they like / have used before / recommend. A tool provides no value until you can directly connect it to business outcomes. All OD/Change Management/HCM/L&D/HR/OE professionals would do well to remain firmly grounded in those business outcomes. You just need enough structure to help you accomplish the business goals, and ideally in a way that enables repeatable results.

If you are interested in learning more about the discipline of Change Management as a field of practice, a great resource for you is the Association of Change Management Professionals. Another would be Prosci and their Change Management Learning Center because of the certifications they offer, which have gained a lot of traction in recent years.

If you are interested in learning more about the field of Organization Development, my colleagues in the Organization Development Network would be happy to talk with you more.

Betsy Winkler is Partner at People Results with 20+ years experience in Change Leadership and Organization Development. She can be reached on Twitter @BetsyWinkler1 or on email at

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  • Kristi

    Great post Betsy – and I agree with you 100% that the true value is in the outcomes, and the tools are only the supporting player. Which one works best should always be decided in the context of the outcomes you’re trying to help your client achieve. Hear hear!!

    • Thank you, Kristi. I guess for consultants it’s kind of like “physician, heal thyself” – let go of the tool and focus on the business . . .

  • Shelli Walker

    Great blog Betsy, nice to know where the conversation went with the panel. The group is made up of just about every type of “OD” professional possible- nice to see it simplified – results is what matters.

    • Yes there’s great variety as you said, Shelli – all the acronyms referenced in the post!

  • Sheri bRowning

    Grear post Betsy- such a refreshing view of how we as practitioners can get caught up in the jargon vs the solution or results. I’m curious though…In the discussion, did you guys identify any agreed-upon differences in approach?

    • Thank you, Sheri. Several approaches were mentioned, especially because other panelists and some in the room had been to the ACMP national conference a few months ago. The Prosci tools are popular, as is the Kotter model from a Change Management / Change Leadership perspective. The Gallup 12 was referenced as a common, short survey often used to assess employee engagement on the OD side. Beyond that, it varies widely depending upon the business problem(s) you’re trying to solve.


    Hi Betsy!!! I love reading all of the great stuff on people-results! Couldn’t agree with you more on the jargon and tools… I am frequently asked about tools and if I require their use. When I say yes, but no and that my most important tool is knowledge of their business, the relief is evident. Know the business, leverage experience, define the goal, and use what makes sense. People aren’t cookie cutter – neither are their organizations or the way they will respond to change. Great stuff!

    • Scottie, great to hear from you! Thanks for your kind words. Sounds like we agree that it’s all about trying to walk in their (the client’s) shoes and look at things from their perspective instead of forcing our own “lingo” upon them. You summarized it beautifully in your comment. Please keep reading the blog!

  • Laura Johnson

    Hi Betsy! I’ll chime in and say, as someone who has been basically been on the client end, that it can be very frustrating when consultants come in and have their forms, etc. when you already have a form/system that is working. I realize some of the value of the consultants is in using their forms/processes, but when you are having to re-create communication plans, spreadsheets, etc. just to fit their format, it does get tedious and annoying! I think these comments apply to what your blog addresses – if not, just take it as some venting that I needed to do!

    • Welcome to the dialogue, Laura! It’s ok to vent and we’re happy to have you do it here. No one wants to waste their time on things that don’t add value. We’re all way too busy for that.