How to Make Change Management a Human Process

CIOs often think of change management in terms of workflows, deployment strategies and budgets. It's just as crucial, though, to make sure executives, subordinates and other colleagues are equal partners in the process. That way, when change does happen, employees actually embrace it.

By Jonathan Hassell
Wed, November 14, 2012

CIO — It's foolish to think you will never encounter change in business. If you hold a position as CIO of a business or other organization, that is especially true. Change seeks you out. The landscape is moving so quickly, and technology matures and advances and achieves new breakthroughs so quickly, that you have no choice but to embrace it on your level.

Doing so on behalf of your entire organization is a much different story. Change management is one of the biggest challenges CIOs face. Grappling with it—and navigating successfully through it—is a basic job requirement.

But it's rooted far outside of silicon. It's in carbon.

The Human Part of Change Management

When you think of change management initially, you probably think of workflows, approvals, budgets, transition plans and deployment strategies right off the bat. This is natural; as a CIO, you're around technology day in and day out. But perhaps the most crucial element of managing any type of change in any organization is the ability to enroll your peers, colleagues, employees and other partners in your efforts. Rule by fiat, by diktat, is rarely ever successful in any but the smallest of projects. Huge, organization-wide changes need to be sold and preached to an audience that has been prepared and is ready to listen and understand.

To understand this more, think of how you might be tempted to set a new policy without adequate time for review. People underneath you in the hierarchical chain follow these policies because of the chain of command, but silently—or, even worse, behind your back to other colleagues and team members—they may begin disparaging policies they see as ineffective or burdensome. Such gossip spreads through the organization rather quickly, creating doubt and resistance to change.

Commentary: Why the "New CIO" Must Be Ready, Willing and Able to Embrace Change

Contrast this with an approach that enrolls your colleagues and achieves an understanding and a commitment to your proposed changes. When team members understand the reasoning for a change, the intended benefits and the path to deployment and success, they make a personal investment in change.

The difference in result can be staggering between the two. What amounted to lemmings trickling down orders while fostering discontent in the former instance turns into a well deployed team in the latter, tackling priorities and overcoming obstacles to implementing new processes and systems because they themselves believe in what they are accomplishing.

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