Change management matters. We know from many studies that unless a change management program accompanies a major technology implementation, the success rate of the project drops precipitously. The ROI implications of the failure are significant, damaging further the relationship between IT and business managers.
According to “Developing Better Change Leaders” by McKinsey, ‘few companies can avoid big, periodic changes in the guts of their business.’ From my experience, the likelihood of technology being involved in these changes is high. We also know from research and my previous blogs that unless there is a senior sponsor focusing relentlessly on the project, it will fail. To quote McKinsey’s concurring comment: “Such changes start at the top and demand a relentless focus on nitty-gritty details from leaders up and down the line.” Successful big changes require commitment, focus, time and getting into the details. Few senior managers can pay attention at this level. So how do we make it happen?
A large component of coaching is addressing the softer skills. Whether transitioning from an analytical role to a managerial one or maneuvering around uncertain inter-personal relationships, soft skills are the ones which lead to long-term success.
McKinsey writes: “Too often, however, senior executives overlook the ‘softer’ skills their leaders will need to disseminate changes throughout the organization and make them stick. These skills include the ability to keep managers and workers inspired when they feel overwhelmed, to promote collaboration across organizational boundaries, or to help embrace change programs through dialogue, not dictation.”
How does an organization address the need for ‘soft skills’? The article suggests an ‘intense, immersive, and individualized leadership program.’
- Engage stakeholders as opposed to acting independently.
- Build trust by asking your partners to join you in the journey of the change.
- Commit to interacting not just intellectually but also emotionally.
- Delegate to share the vision and ‘bring more people on board.’
- Focus on solutions to ‘build on existing strengths to overcome resistance.’
- Be collaborative by including employees who actually do the work.
- Allow others to speak and encourage the group to find solutions to problems.
- Don’t shy away from the difficult conversations. Your values and beliefs might be more widely held than you believe.
McKinsey’s practitioners observed four lessons of big change projects that formed an effective, results-oriented leadership management program:
First, tie training goals to business goals. “Leadership training can seem vaporous when not applied to actual problems in the workplace.”
Second, build on strengths. “Train managers who are influential in areas crucial to the overall transformation and already have some of the desired behavior.”
Third, ensure sponsorship. “Give training participants access to formal senior-executive sponsors who can tell them hard truths are vital in helping participants change how they lead.”
Fourth, create networks of change leaders. “Change programs falter when early successes remain isolated in organizational silos.”
You might enjoy reading the related article below as it aligns well with the need for soft skills among IT workers in their daily engagements with business managers.
Given that we know enough to be smart about change management, there’s no reason we can’t increase the rate of successful IT projects.