The one constant in today's business world is change. It's constant, inevitable and unending. The individuals and organisations that will rise to the top of the marketplace are the ones who can embrace, manage and lead change throughout an enterprise.
This is especially true in the world of IT. Every day technology is helping companies develop more innovative products and services, implement social and mobile initiatives, streamline supply chains, or comply with new regulations.
The projects of IT always involve aspects of change whether it is to people, processes, technology, or all three.
You must treat change like an event or a project. Successful change doesn't just happen. It must be planned, structured, monitored and led, and you must start managing the human element of change long before focusing on the processes that are required.
The first rule of change management is to plan for managing the people issues involved in the change, long before change is implemented.
Once this is understood, there are four key components to a successful change management program: communication, commitment, community, and clarity.
Your number one job in change management is to communicate. It is the single most important element for success. Communication is how you handle the people issues. It is the glue that holds the change management process together.
A fundamental of human nature is that we handle the known much better than the unknown. When looking at a change, we don't do well with the unknown.
When something is unknown, we let our minds and imagination get the best of us and we make things up. For example, let's say you were single and last week you were out at a local pub and met someone you were really interested in and scheduled a date for this evening.
It's about 3pm in the afternoon and your phone rings and it is their number on your caller ID. What are you thinking in that moment? Most people's first thought is, "they are calling to cancel".
If you look at what truly happened, all that occurred was you saw their number on your caller ID, but you are immediately thinking they are cancelling.
Our minds work in funny ways -- we don't usually think, "oh, they are excited to see us". We tend to imagine the worst. The same is true within your organisation. Just mention restructure and your team will be thinking they are losing their job, will run out of money and it just spirals downwards from there.
And if it truly is bad news, we handle that pretty well. We've all had to deal with bad news at some point in our life and we get pretty good at it. We actually handle known bad news better than the unknown.
Commitment means being emotionally and intellectually bound to a course of action or to another person. It is what leads to a sustained behavioural change.
When people are committed they become full participants -- they believe in what they are doing, where they are heading, and they intend to fulfil on completing the journey.
One of the best ways to build commitment to change is for the people impacted by the change to understand what's in it for them. If they understand the clear outcome of the change and how it is to benefit them, you have a much greater likelihood of gaining their commitment.
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We've all heard the expression, "it takes a village to raise a child". Well, it takes a community to drive change. It takes different people collaborating in diverse roles to make it work. As a change leader, it is up to you to identify and engage the right people to play the correct roles in the process.
The change must be clear and understood before activity is initiated. This clarity must be in two distinct areas; the case for change and the path that is being followed to implement change.
For the case to be clear, you want it to illustrate that the cost of the status quo is greater than the cost of change. Then you must create the picture of what the future will look like on the other side of the change process.
Look at categories such as knowledge and skill, processes, organisational structure, relationships, culture, and technology to create this path.
Furthermore, you will want to verify that you are in a state of "change readiness" by confirming you have a clear business case, cohesive leadership, an attitude of willingness, respect for those leading the change, sufficient resources and that the change was designed in an open and collaborative way.
If there is one core take away here, it's that change doesn't just happen. It needs to be led and driven with purpose and intent. Follow the four components of change to guide you on your journey.
Lou Markstrom is the co-author of "Unleashing The Power of IT: Bringing People, Business, and Technology Together", published by Wiley as part of its CIO series. He is also a professional development specialist at DDLS.
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