by Pearl Zhu

12 IT change management practices

Dec 06, 2018
Change ManagementIT Leadership

Digital organizations are the living things with the ability to continually change as the world changes and evolves with an intersecting and interacting business ecosystem seamlessly.

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Credit: Thinkstock

The digital era upon us is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Change becomes the new normal. In forward-looking organizations, IT has become synonymous with the change department. IT is not only the super glue but also an integrator to weave all important change elements such as people, strategy, process, procedure, and information technology seamlessly, and make multidimensional change sustainable for the long term. Here is a set of IT Change Management practices.

1. Reflection and evaluation practices

The purpose of digitalization is to make a significant difference in the overall levels of organizational maturity. Thus, it’s important for CIOs to spend time on doing IT management reflection and evaluation by asking: Is IT there to “keep the lights on” only, or is IT expected to actively take part in strategic decisions or innovative initiatives? Does IT stretch, challenge, or interrupt the status quo? Can IT expand the zone of possible change and innovation? Does IT drive team-building and organizational learning? Is IT in a high-involvement process to make the digital paradigm shift? Etc. CIOs need to evaluate the overall IT manageability, innovation competency, skills gap and ensure that IT is on the right track for progression and moving up to the high level of organizational maturity.

2. Deep listening practices

The digital age upon us is the era of people. That means you have to listen to their feedback, involve them in both change management and process implementation, to gain insight and empathy. This is particularly important for managers. Because when you are in a position of authority, you have lots of opportunities to tell and lots of leeway in how to do the telling. But change as a management process does not start with “how,” you often need to figure out “why” first. Thus, for them, the message is about listening with empathy! If you do not listen, you will lose the goodwill of collaboration. Listening and communicating are critical to deal with conflicts, constructively advocate fresh viewpoints or build the trustful business relationship which will lubricate business processes to further enforce change effectiveness.

3. Team inception practices

Most of the organizations today are process and control driven, the management puts emphasis on compliance with the result, and people forget to think freely. However, for driving change and innovation from inception to fruition, it’s important to develop a working environment in which people are encouraged to think independently, share unique insight, harness collective or external collaboration, and get teams off on the right foot. Change leaders should cultivate an open nature of the business, break down the overly restrict business hierarchy and multilayer of organizational silos such as silo mentality, silo information or silo processes to build holistic enterprise change competencies.

4. Dynamic facilitation practices

Fundamentally, change is about figuring out the better way to do things. If you try to turn it into an obligation, you will cause an equal and opposite reaction. Many well-established organizations are struggling with changes because of overly rigid business processes, legacy technologies, inflexible management disciplines, or command-control management styles, etc. To rejuvenate the culture of change, it’s important for change management to adopt coach or mentoring styles, apply dynamic facilitation practices to develop high performing and creative teams, build both internal and external beliefs around how the business is a movement for business enablement and improvement. It takes time and generations of changes within a company to practice and build change as an ongoing business capability.

5. Cross-functional communication and collaboration practices

 Traditional IT organizations were often run as a siloed support center, an order taker or a help desk. Those CIOs who are technology geeks or tactical managers don’t understand the business side of the story. There are negative conflicts when the organization has the little collaborative competency or lack of changeability. But when they communicate, collaborative, and integrate, there is more potential to change and innovate for creating the business value. It is the responsibility of leaders to initiate their team to break down silos and realize the common goals or strategies which are far more important than the personal or departmental goals.

6. Feedback-Feedforward practices

Either for improvement or innovation, feedback is always about how to improve performance so it’s always about the future. Feedback is not limited and static as opposed to expansive and dynamic. If you want to create a great future for the organization, the team needs to be responsive to feedback. Feedback does not focus on the past, it tells you what is happening so that you can adapt. Feedback needs to be continuous, as close to real time as possible. Feedback not only helps to act but aids to feed forward for managing change performance. Eventually, feedback should always be genuinely proper, precise, and substantive. It is a solution to the problem of cluelessness. Thus, feedback-feedforward practices are important to improve change effectiveness and achieve fruitful business results.

7. Managing change systematically by taking a framework approach

The successful businesses are the ones that have learned when change is called for and how to decide what to change. It’s a systematic effort. Change cannot be just another thing that needs to be accomplished. It has to be woven into communication, process, and action of the organization, to navigate through an effective Change Management framework. A fine-tuned Change Management framework with clear-defined stages, decision-making parameters, performance thresholds, metrics selections, combined with an iterative learning – change process and flexible organizational structure improve Change Management effectiveness and efficiency,

8. Amplifying the change effect to the organizational scope

 Change is the vehicle. A “Change Agent” IT can orchestrate processes, tools, products or services that organizations use to affect the business transformation from strategy to deployment, from change assessment to measurement. The CIO as a change agent not only touches his or her own function but also needs to make an influence on the entire organization and the business ecosystem. It takes strategic planning, methodologies, and practices to make change happening and also sustain change to achieve the expected business results.

9. ‘Every individual as a stakeholder’ practices

Digital organizations are flatter and hyperconnected. It can approach the flow zone when the positions in its hierarchy have clear and accountable tasks and enforce “every individual as a stakeholder” practices. Lack of accountability is often one of the biggest obstacles to getting things done or causing change inertia. Digital organizations can close the accountability gap through open door listening, cross-functional communication and collaboration, transparency, and empathy. When digital leaders are equipped with the ownership mentality, they can run businesses boldly and provide the digital leadership style to inject enthusiasm, which is infectious and catalyze changes. The challenge is to set digital principles, encourage self-management, enforce accountability and adapt to changes depending on the company’s ambition and situation.

10. ‘Walk the digital talk’ practices

IT leaders should be able to envision not only where a company believes it is going but how it will get there and how it might be missing out on opportunities because of limitations on understanding of disruptive technological trend, information flow or knowledge update. Walking the digital talk is a well-prepared and business-focused journey. IT can no longer just be about numbers and algorithms; it has an opportunity to be a significant catalyst for passion and a tool for encouraging changes and connecting dots across functional and even cross-industrial board, for coming up with innovative business solutions.

11. Make change deliverables continually

There are both incremental changes and radical changes; change management is a journey with continuous delivery. Change requires tools, training, and practices in order for participants to feel comfortable that the service level they provide will continue to improve with the same or reduced effort. To adapt to the increasing speed of changes and manage a smooth IT change continuum, organizations have to become nimbler about updating technology and make change deliverables continually. There are significant change deliverables that must be tied to all change plans, try to improve, develop, and change everything in a prioritized order as long as it creates the long-term value than it costs to achieve.

12. Outcome-based measurement practices

Organizations consist of people. It is the change in people’s behaviors that bring about change in the organization. Leaders must have the desire to change a company. They must define the “why and what” the change outputs will look like. It’s a fair assumption that the value of the change will be realized and delivered by adoption, utilization and proficient use of their people in the ‘new’ ways. However, be cautious about the pitfalls. The problem stems from the way outcomes are being measured. When the collective outcome is the focus, the silo walls collapse. When individual and departmental outcomes are measured, the walls go up. In other words, what are the organization’s rewards and recognition structure perpetuating? Differentiated performance metrics and rewards systems tend to bring this shift in perspective about, but they too are a necessary aspect of how an organization operates until they become counterproductive and have to be changed.

Digital organizations are living things with the ability to continually change as the world changes and evolves with an intersecting and interacting business ecosystem seamlessly. IT is at the center of changes. CIOs need to develop IT-driven change practices to reach the next level of the business maturity and run IT as the change engine of the digital business.