IT Deserves More Credit for Enabling Successful Change

Don Tennant
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In the Knowledge Network

It's widely accepted that if there's one thing IT professionals are especially good at, it's dealing with change.


That probably has a lot to do with the fast-paced nature of technological change, which almost inevitably makes its way into an IT pro's DNA.


But maybe that phenomenon shouldn't be taken for granted.


Maybe IT should be getting more credit for its role in advancing successful change.


According to change management guru Rick Maurer, who has released a revised edition of his 1996 book, "Beyond the Wall of Resistance," one of the biggest differences in change management since he wrote the original work is the role that technology is playing. In an interview last week, Maurer had high praise for IT:

Almost all IT projects demand the support of all kinds of people throughout the organization. The IT people have got to be able to sell their ERP, or whatever the systems are, to people who know nothing about IT. IT has actually gotten a whole lot better in understanding that, and making their changes successful. When I wrote my book 15 years ago, the research said that 90 percent of big IT projects fail. I haven't seen recent statistics, but I was recently in a meeting in a city government, and they said, "Oh, yeah, we use SAP, and we love it, and we're expanding it." You weren't hearing that very much 10 or 15 years ago. So IT people have learned how to do it.

Maurer added that IT has been especially successful in engaging other departments in the organization:

What it takes for a change to be successful is engagement. People need to be willing to roll up their sleeves and take ownership. And IT people have really learned that. They say, "Even though we're working with the marketing department, and they know nothing about what we do, we'd better be listening to them, and find ways to engage them."

Maurer also gave IT high marks for enabling the free flow of information that has facilitated successful organizational change:

One of the things that gets in the way of change is a lot of people don't see the need for it. They don't have access to the information that's keeping all those executives awake at night. They don't see the threat. So the good news is now it's easier to communicate what's going, it's easier to find virtual ways of meeting.

One thing IT pros need to be cognizant of, Maurer said, is that the recession has created a lot of fear in the workplace, and employees are often reluctant to vocalize their opposition to anything presented by management, including change:

Where the recession comes in is when the boss of the company says, "OK, we're going to do ERP," it becomes much harder for people to say," I don't like it, I'm afraid of it." They'll go through the motions of accepting it, and then once everything's in place, they find all these workarounds. That's one of the things IT people really need to watch out for-it's going to be harder for people to tell them the truth. Even if the IT professionals are great human beings, open, willing to listen, the overall culture is, "Man, don't be the naysayer, or your head's going to get chopped off." It's certainly one of the things that I would pay attention to.

I'm eager to hear about your experiences with change. Is IT getting the credit it deserves for enabling successful organizational change? And are employees indeed reluctant to voice their opposition to changes enabled by IT for fear of losing their jobs?

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