Change Management - Understanding the Science of Change

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It’s also important to know that there are always going to be people who are simply incapable of changing their behavior in a particular situation for reasons that are too complex and personal for CIOs to resolve. CIOs are not

psychotherapists, and they don’t need to be. Change experts and CIOs offer a remarkably consistent picture of the types of reaction to change and the percentages of people who fall into each category. Roughly 20 percent to 30 percent of employees are change gluttons—often ambitious, they see change as a path to happiness and success. Another 20 percent to 30 percent cannot view change as anything other than a threat to their jobs (and they may be right) and will resist at all costs. Finally, about 50 percent to 70 percent are skeptics—they may see some logic in the case for change but aren’t convinced it will benefit them personally. "It’s the 50 to 70 percent you need to focus on," says Rock.

Not Your Motivation, Theirs

One of the biggest mistakes leaders like CIOs make in trying to win over the skeptical middle is assuming that everyone is motivated by ambition—as many CIOs are. But many people, especially IT professionals, are motivated as much or more by the work they do (the craft of software development, for example) as they are by the opportunity to move up in the hierarchy. "There are a lot of people who don’t want to be king or queen," says Wakefield. "That’s difficult for people to reveal because they fear their bosses will start to question their courage and commitment." If these people don’t see an opportunity to maintain their allegiance to the work they love as part of a change, they won’t see the benefit of going along. They will remain skeptical or, worse, move into the camp of active resisters.

One of the best ways to bring the skeptics around is through learning. At the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, a change readiness survey of employees at the beginning of an effort to shift compensation cases from paper folders to electronic files found that employees’ number-one demand was for training. "They wanted reassurance that we weren’t going to ask them to do something new without giving them the support they needed to do it," says Nancy Mulholland, who is deputy executive director and CIO of the board.

Information sessions, Q&As, training courses and coaching all provide ways for people to get those epiphanies without feeling as if something is being forced on them. "Learning is the antidote to change resistance," says Wakefield. "Learning lets you reframe the change from being something bad for you to something that can have value for you."

The learning environment has to be one in which employees will not be reprimanded or embarrassed for revealing their discomfort with the new way of doing things. "You have to give people the sense that feeling uncomfortable is a normal part of change and address their concerns about losing face because of their lack of confidence and competence," says Wakefield. One of the ways to do that is to put people together who share a similar status in the organization and are facing a similar change so they can see that they’re not alone—a species of corporate support group. When groups are too threatening, individual coaching can help.

The Hard Edge of the Soft Stuff

Change management is time-consuming and hard to quantify for process-oriented CIOs. But avoiding the challenge leads to failure. "Anybody can stick $2,000 in someone’s face to get them to finish a job, but it’s the people who can inspire others to follow them that are the most successful in the long run," says PharMerica’s Toole. "The soft stuff is important."

But inspiring others to change isn’t a matter of charisma or charm, say the experts. It’s finding a way to spark those epiphanies.

Sparks’s latest tactic for engaging his staff’s prefrontal cortexes was to bring in an outside consultant to discuss the ITIL program and to field concerns.

"We had an outstanding instructor, and she was able to address many of the questions people had," recalls Sparks. "I could begin to see the lights come on in some of the [skeptics]. After a long meeting, one of my people stood up and said, ’You know, we should have started working on this [automated monitoring] six months ago.’"


Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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