Change Management and Technology

Two environments: 1) organization leadership is satisfied with the technology status quo; 2) organization leadership desires to update technology.

In the former environment, there is little the technology manager can do other than to promote the need for updating by relating the advances the competition is making and demonstrating the advantages of updating. In the later environment, senior management, having made the decision to update, often gives the tech manager very little time to execute and “incremental” is seldom not part of the discussion. The tech manager can alleviate the time crunch issue over time by continual planning (strategic and tactical) and frequently collaborating, communicating and presenting. Salesmanship is definitely a plus. In any case, you can be sure that there will be end user resistance and that some degree of change management will be required to implement the update(s).

As we all know, changes in technology tend to reverberate throughout entire organizations. Most, if not all, departmental processes are affected. Many policies and procedures may need to be rewritten. Of course, training to some or more extent will be required. Technology changes are seldom silent and invisible. New or significantly updated technologies tend to create fear. Okay, maybe mostly just apprehension but some will literally be scared. Change is stressful especially when it has the potential of affecting livelihoods. Leadership early on must do it best belay the fears and apprehension. Will I lose my job? Will my position be downgraded with less pay? Will my hours be reduced? Will I be able to learn to use the technology? The IT manager gives guidance to leadership and encouragement to employees as possible during this phase.

The IT manager has his/her own apprehensions revolving around whether the new technology will work and whether she/he can pull off a smooth implementation. It is best to follow a change management process of your choosing, one that fits your leadership style and organizational culture. There are many available. I am a proponent of the eight-step change process developed by John P. Kotter, the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School. Here is a general outline of the process. More and deeper information can be found at the Kotter International website.

    • Top leaders must describe an opportunity that will appeal to individuals’ heads and hearts and use this statement to raise a large, urgent army of volunteers.
    • Putting together a group with enough power to lead the change. A volunteer army needs a coalition of effective people — coming from its own ranks — to guide it, coordinate it and communicate its activities.
    • Creating a vision to help direct the change effort and developing strategies for achieving that vision. Dr. Kotter defines strategic initiatives as targeted and coordinated “activities that, if designed and executed fast enough and well enough, will make your vision a reality.”
    • Using every vehicle possible to constantly communicate the new vision and strategies. Having the guiding coalition role model the behavior expected of employees. Large-scale change can only occur when very significant numbers
      of employees amass under a common opportunity and drive in the same direction.
  5. ENABLE ACTION BY REMOVING BARRIERS (empowering people to effect change) By removing barriers such as inefficient processes or hierarchies, leaders provide the freedom necessary for employees to work across boundaries.

    • Getting rid of obstacles (training, training, training)
    • Changing systems or structures that undermine the change vision
    • Encouraging risk taking and non-traditional ideas, activities & actions
    • Engage employees as partners
    • Provide people with the opportunity to plan for and take action
  6. GENERATING SHORT-TERM WINS – Wins are the molecules of results. They must be collected, categorized,
    and communicated — early and often — to track progress and energize your volunteers to drive change.

    • Planning for visible improvements in performance, or “wins”
    • Creating those wins
    • Visibly recognizing and rewarding people who made wins possible
    • Change leaders must adapt quickly in order to maintain their speed. Whether it’s a new way of finding talent or removing misaligned processes, they must determine what can be done — every day — to stay the course towards the vision.
    • Using increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit together and don’t fit the vision
    • Hiring, promoting and developing people who can implement the change vision
    • Develop people and projects to carry on the change vision throughout the organization
    • To ensure new behaviors are repeated over the long-term, it’s important that you define and communicate the connections between these behaviors and the organization’s success.
    • Creating better performance through customer- and productivity-oriented behavior, more and better leadership, & more effective leadership.
    • Articulating the connections between new behaviors and organizational success.
    • Developing means to ensure leadership development and succession.

Of course, before initiating these steps the tech manager has to have performed her/his due diligence: selecting the right technology (maybe more than one initially); networking with other users in similar organizations; and, her/his due diligence: selecting the right technology (maybe more than one initially); networking with other users in similar organizations; and, probably most important, collaborating with key employees; key operational supervisors, senior management, maintenance personnel, and cross-departmental staff.