Organizational Behavior Management vs. Change Management: What’s the Difference?

What are the key differences between organizational behavior management and change management?

These two different disciplines both cover much of the same territory, including:

However, despite the overlap, the two disciplines are distinct.

They have different origins, methods, and aims.

Below, we’ll look at both of these in detail.

What Is Organizational Behavior Management?

Organizational behavior management (OBM), is a cross-disciplinary field that aims to improve a variety of business areas.

It synthesizes material from other fields, such as behavioral analysis and performance management.

As mentioned above, the aims of this discipline can include:

  • Improvement of worker safety, through analysis and improvement of the workplace, equipment, procedures, and so on
  • Performance management, to manage how employees behave in the workplace
  • Analyzing and improving workplace systems, to improve business processes and procedures

Effecting these changes take the form of interventions, which focus on things such as:

  • Tasks
  • Tools
  • Training

Or “consequence-based interventions,” which focus on feedback, incentives, and reward systems.

Practitioners in this field follow similar processes to change management professionals.

A sample action plan would include:

  • Identifying objectives. Business leaders and consultants work together to identify specific results, objectives, or aims that they wish to improve. For instance, if productivity on a new software is low, then the objective could be improving employee productivity with that tool.
  • Targeting specific behaviors to improve. The next step is to determine which behaviors can help improve the desired results. Continuing with the same example, managers may determine that if employees used a specific workflow, their performance would improve.
  • Creating metrics, KPIs, and a way to measure progress. Metrics and KPIs are then chosen. These should be based on the specific behavioral change program. In digital adoption projects, progress could be measured by metrics such as employee engagement, performance quotas, and so on.
  • Understanding the problem or problems. Intervention teams, working under guidance of the behavioral change professional, will assess the workplace and worker behavior. They will focus on areas such as causes, skills, tools and equipment, and the results. 
  • Designing and implementing a solution. With this information, the behavioral change team can design a solution. The solution will vary depending on the specific situation, but can include training, feedback and communication, or formalizing new procedures.
  • Measuring, analyzing, and improving the results. Finally, the project’s results are measured and analyzed. At this stage, practitioners can determine how successful the project was, whether it should be adjusted, if a different intervention is needed, or whether to finalize the program.

The process here is not unlike change management processes, discussed below.

However, organizational behavior management focuses – as the name suggests – specifically on behavioral management.

Organizational change management, however, has a much broader focus.

Change Management vs. Organizational Behavior Management

Change management, organization development, and organizational development tend to focus on organizational changes, rather than employee behavior.

For instance, an organization may choose to undertake an organizational transformation, such as:

  • Restructuring job roles, hierarchies, and departments
  • Adopting digital software
  • Engaging with a new marketplace
  • Modernizing its IT infrastructure
  • Cultural change

Among many others.

Organizational changes such as these can be categorized into different types, such as:

  • People-centered changes. Organizational changes that revolve around people can include projects that focus on employee behavior, employee training, changes to organizational culture, the customer experience, and so on.
  • Process changes. Process changes transform procedures, protocols, and processes within a business. 
  • Changes to tools, technology, equipment, or infrastructure. These include digital adoption solutions, digital transformation, IT modernization, modernizing equipment, and similar projects.
  • Changes to the business strategy or mission. An organization may also need to shift its strategic priorities and its overall mission. For instance, a company may choose to enter a new marketplace, open a new product line, or change to a digital-first business strategy.

Organizational changes such as these can be simple and straightforward.

More often, however, they are involved and complex. 

Adopting new enterprise digital tools, for instance, may entail several other business changes, such as cultural changes, employee training, and so forth.

As with behavioral management, organizational change specialists follow specific methods. 

There are a few similarities between the two approaches.

As we saw, organizational behavior management focuses on behavioral change.

Change management, though, focuses on influencing employees. The reason is simple: employee support is vital to the success of any change project. 

Here are some common steps included in many change management frameworks:

  • Creating awareness and a sense of urgency around the need for change. First and foremost, workers must understand why they are being asked to change. They must also understand why the change is important and urgent.
  • Building skills, knowledge, and abilities. Many change programs require new skills, workflows, or processes. Training employees is essential in order to maximize their productivity.
  • Motivating employees – and sustaining that motivation. Employees’ motivation levels impact their performance and productivity. Unless you sustain motivation, they will become fatigued or even resistant.
  • Execution. Change projects will include milestones, goals, deadlines, and targets. During this stage, managers will ensure that the project stays organized and on track.
  • Instituting and reinforcing that change. Finally, change must be reinforced and instituted. Otherwise people may slip back into old habits and procedures. This stage can involve extra training, communication, recognition, and so on.

Clearly, there are a few similarities between this approach and the organizational behavior management approach.

That is, both disciplines aim to achieve a type of business change.

However, as we’ve seen, they both have different areas of focus.

Organizational behavior management focuses on achieving results through behavioral change.

Organizational change management focuses on achieving results through changes to the organization itself – strategies, procedures, tools, and people.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.