Whose side are you on?

We're continuing our discussion of how to facilitate organisational change. Change is good, we're told. Resistance to change is natural, but we all need to get past it, we're told.

Management Speak: I won't set the priorities for you.

Translation: If I did, I couldn't shift the blame to you.

-- IS Survivalist Rick Silva's priority is translating phrases like this. How about you?

Change is good, we're told. Resistance to change is natural, but we all need to get past it, we're told.

It's worth remembering that in World War II the allies considered the various European resistance fighters to be the good guys, and the agents of change to be the bad guys. Sometimes resistance to change is a good thing. But it all depends on the nature of the change, and which side you are on.

We're continuing our discussion of how to facilitate organisational change. So far we've talked about the importance of communication, involvement and making sure that to the extent possible the change is personally beneficial to those it affects -- concepts that aren't especially profound, but are ignored with astonishing frequency.

To continue the discussion, here are two more not-very-profound ideas that will help you ensure successful change: Don't skimp on training, and define suitable measurements of success.

Some tips on training.

  • Include a trainer on your design team. This helps you design for trainability, and also makes sure the trainer's understanding of the subject is more than superficial.
  • Train just in time. Skills acquired in the classroom have an amazingly short half-life if they aren't put to practical use.
  • When you implement any change, turn the entire project team into floorwalkers who can answer employees' questions immediately.
Some tips on measurements.
  • Don't begin with employee performance measurements. Start with business goals. Then express each key goal in the form of an equation. This keeps your focus on improving business functions.
  • Fine-tune each measurement so employees can't manipulate it.
  • Keep an eye on the business. The world of business is filled with measurements that can be improved, but as the business actually deteriorates.
  • Automate the data collection needed for each measurement. Employees are too busy doing their work to spend time logging data as a separate activity, and managers are better off spending their time tracking results than computing them.
One last thought: don't waste your time and money on a "change readiness assessment". Some change-management gurus like to start an engagement by discovering the level of change resistance in an organisation. I ask, What difference does it make? Will you cancel the change if resistance is high? I didn't think so.

Send your assessment to Bob Lewis. Lewis is president of IT Catalysts, an independent consultancy specialising in IT effectiveness and strategic alignment. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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