How do you as an IT leader remain relevant and innovative in a culture where change is slow? Regardless of what the culture may think, change is happening. Organizations work at different paces. Some are subtle, whereas others, especially in the tech world have adopted the model of “Fail Fast”.
Having worked in DOD, manufacturing, software development, healthcare, advertising, and local government, the one thing that remains the same in all these organizations is that they need technology, especially in today’s business market to be competitive and in some cases survive.
Businesses are quick to change, especially where it may have a direct impact on their bottom line, such as getting products to market faster, or cutting staff. From a technological perspective change is not always good or as easy and direct, especially when you are talking about in-efficiencies in the organization and/or implementing new technology solutions that the business does not understand how the change directly or indirectly relates to the mission and goal of the organization.
The Challenges of Change Management
The challenges of change management can be broken down into 3 pillars: Resources, Process and People. I know what you are thinking, where is technology? Technology itself is straight-forward, it is the 3 pillars that make the innovation of technology a challenge:
Resources - Time, Money, and People are the triple constraints of Project Management and are a large part as to why projects fail. If a deadline is imposed on you and your organization is understaffed, doesn’t have the right skilled people, too many active projects, or the necessary hardware/software time can be a major constraint. If you do not have the money to implement the technology this is a non-starter, there is nothing to discuss. Finally, people, which I consider to be a direct relation to time and money, and the most important of all. If you are allotted the money, you may be able to manage the time by getting the necessary people, whether that comes in the form of hiring contractors, part-time or full-time employees to fill the gaps in your project team
Process - Process can be a little more difficult as most business processes take place in silos, as everyone has their role and responsibility. The trick here is learning and understanding everyone’s role and the order of which their role plays into the larger process. It becomes extra challenging if you have a loss of knowledge in that process, due to a SME (subject matter expert) leaving the organization creating a knowledge gap in the process, because no one else knows that part of the process. This is usually the case when there is a tenured person that has been performing the same task for several years. They have the process locked down and even if they were to document the process, would probably leave steps out because they have been performing a task that has become second nature.
People - People are the most challenging of all because people are unpredictable, and most are inherently opposed to change. People like predictability and routine; people are creatures of habit. I know when I go to my favorite restaurant or coffee shop, I usually know before I walk through the door what I am going to order, or it may be a matter of choosing between a couple of options. The challenge here is to get people out of their comfort zone and thinking outside the box. People make up the “culture of the organization” determining its risk acceptance level and change tolerance, which is why people are the number one source that kills innovation and change.
How to Manage Change for Success
Now that we have identified the challenges how do we manage change for innovation? Listen, to the organization as to what is going on, what are the concerns, challenges, what is the competition doing?
Then align yourself with the business, by learning the business, speaking with managers, line-workers, executive staff to find out their pain points. Now come up with solutions, yes solutions, there is usually more than one way to solve a problem. Presenting options to the organization and making a recommendation on what you believe to be the best option, displays understanding of the problem and business acumen in that you are viewing the issue from all sides; business, financial, and technical. Your recommendation may help influence the business decision, but allowing the business to select what they determine to be the best option, provides a higher possibility of success since they are now vested in the solution, which best aligns with the business strategy and risk tolerance. Make sure that your options are also solutions that you can live with and deliver on the technical side (i.e., do not offer solutions that are going to compromise the security of the business, the technology does not exist, or will not meet regulatory requirements).
Lastly, take advantage of those “easy wins to establish positive relations” that will build emotional intelligence, trust, and a stewardship mindset. Through this process you will find your business champions, that will support your future innovation and, in most cases, will assist you in selling the solution to others in the organization.
Business is not a one size fits all, but in my years of experience, adding value to the culture and building positive relationships, has assisted me in becoming a person of influence, by adding value to others, which has attributed to my individual and team success. I cannot guarantee that the information provided in this article will help you be successful in your organization as you will still need to execute and deliver, but I can guarantee you that eventually, business culture and people will change, whether that is through their own decision-making process, the business market or simply through the turnover in staff. In the meantime, build relationships, be innovative and a change management champion.
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