IPMA International Project Management Association
8 March 2019 / 9:00

Change Management Office (CMO) – Enabling change readiness in organisations

There is a lot of research on Project Management Offices (PMOs). A PMO enables an organisation, or parts of it, in managing projects and programmes by creating standards, training and coaching people in applying those standards, planning and controlling the portfolio of activities in a respective part or all of the enterprise (Enterprise PMO). Finally, a PMO may be an enabler in collecting and disseminating lessons learned and thus support organizational learning.

Research of Prosci shows that a Change Management Office is increasingly used to build Enterprise Change Management capabilities, to support organisational agility and to increase change readiness. In 2017, 40% of the participating organisations reported to have a CMO, or a “functional group” dedicated to change activities. Larger organisations were more likely to have a CMO, especially in Retail Trade, Banking, Government, Finance as well as Oil and Gas. A CMO should not be mixed up with an office supporting one change activity. Like a project office, a “Change Office” may be established to support a single change activity on a temporary basis, for example a Merger & Acquisition, a Transformation Programme or a Strategic Change Initiative. Nevertheless, the temporary office requires standards, guidelines and regulations for implementing change.

While the “label” may vary from organisation to organisation, the purpose of a CMO is to enable deploying and implementing strategic initiatives and driving the change associated with it. Key responsibilities according to the research of Prosci are:

  • Own and maintain the CM methodology
  • Own and maintain the CM tools
  • Provide consultative support to project teams
  • Provide CM resources on specific projects
  • Maintain a CM community
  • Provide coaching to sponsors
  • Own the CM curriculum
  • Track CM progress on projects
  • Provide coaching to managers/supervisors
  • Track and manage the change portfolio

It could be operated centralized – like an Enterprise PMO – decentralized with several CMOs in each business unit, or as a hybrid; the set-up may depend on the culture of the organisation, its geographic distribution or product portfolio, and the current variation in maturity. It may also depend on where the CM function is assigned to, the HR or IT function, the PMO or the strategic level of the organisation. The latter two might be perceived as the most effective ones for supporting strategic change.

Melanie Franklin highlights that a CMO is to provide the organisation with a focal point for governing, structuring and implementing change initiatives. It provides oversight of all change initiatives planned and underway and ensures each is delivered effectively through the application of a consistent methodology and performance metrics. The CMO supports the decision making associated with evaluating proposals for change and supports the delivery, including but not limited to the continuous development of change management skills in managers and staff via the transfer of knowledge from the CMO to anyone responsible for or impacted by change.

A list of success criteria for a CMO may comprise of the following:

  • Sponsor is a board member/director responsible for strategy, change or projects
  • Sponsor demonstrates commitment and enthusiasm
  • Change information is reported by the CMO to the board on a regular and frequent basis
  • The manager of the CMO has experience and knowledge of organisational change, portfolio, programme and project management and strategic planning
  • There is a clear set of strategic objectives which is known and understood across the organisation
  • CMO staff have high degree of practical experience in running change initiatives and have a strong skill set in project and change management methods and techniques
  • The CMO defines and owns the organisational change framework and method and provides training in this to all relevant staff
  • There are opportunities for those managing and impacting change to influence the way that the CMO operates through forums and regular discussions
  • CMO staff build strong relationships with their stakeholders
  • There is clarity over the remit of the CMO versus it’s key stakeholders including any Portfolio, Project or Programme offices (PMO), the corporate communications function, corporate risk management and audit functions and the learning and development function

Like in project management, building up the change management readiness takes time and efforts of the organisation. Morten Kamp Andersen and Peter Harbo Clausen describe the set-up of a CMO in a Whitepaper from Level 0 (no CMO) up to Level 3 (Advanced CMO) based on the Prosci® Change Management Maturity Model. The Whitepaper provides a 10-step checklist for establishing a CMO:

  1. Identify and appoint the right sponsor. Implicit in this is also the location in the organisation
  2. Identify and appoint the right CMO Manager
  3. Assess the current and to-be CM Maturity Level. Setting the ambition level
  4. Decide upon a location of the CMO, a centralised or decentralised set-up and the size of the CMO
  5. Define the responsibilities for the CMO
  6. Define the success criteria for the CMO
  7. Assess and decide on a structured approach/methodology
  8. Define the initial governance model
  9. Decide on the required change management training
  10. Decide on the model to visualise and to share the progress of change management development to the organisation

Let´s carefully study the developments in this area and see, how we can create synergies between project and change management and its associated organisational functions, as they are two sides of the same medal




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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.