by Abbie Lundberg

Agile Giants

Nov 04, 20082 mins
IT Strategy

How big companies are adapting to change

If things just stayed the same, life would be simple. But nothing ever stays the same, certainly not in today’s business environment.

Most companies get this, and they’re working hard to build more flexibility and agility into their business models, culture and processes. The need for speed, the need for adaptation, has never been more pressing. We are living Darwin’s theory—only sped up by a factor of 10. While being a multibillion-dollar company has many inherent advantages, agility is not one of them. So how does a large organization build that into its DNA? I moderated a panel on this topic recently with three large-company IT executives who all had some well-earned battle scars from the change wars. We talked about the economic climate and why a focus on the customer is more important than ever. All three ranked customers (finding, acquiring, serving and retaining) as their company’s top priority.

But few large organizations are currently built to have a single view of the customer or, conversely, to present a single view of the company to the outside world. There are too many unconnected systems, databases and processes; too many parochial interests and needs. And while the tools exist today to make those connections happen (this was a conference about business process management), getting people to buy into major change is really hard. To get stakeholders to move beyond self-interest and to buy into change for the good of the enterprise, the panelists offered the following recommendations:

    1. Base your case on the customer, not internal needs. If you can convince people that the change you’re proposing will serve customers better, you’re halfway there.

    2. Make sure the CEO not only supports the change but pushes it.

    3. There has to be a change agent driving the project, but make sure this person is tightly affiliated with the business affected, not a separate “change manager.”

    4. Train all affected employees in common values, beliefs and behaviors around the new way of doing things, and link results to rewards and recognition.

    5. Use tools to model the new processes. The days of trying to capture requirements in a formal document, up front, are over. RIP.

    6. Deliver results along the way.

    7. Finally, make sure this is positioned as a business change so IT doesn’t get blamed for the inevitable pain!