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The Human Side of IT Management

Information technology has long respected the need for change management.  From the change management modules (ITSM) with the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) to the Change Control Management Process as part of an ISO 20000 implementation, IT professionals have learned to compartmentalize and systematize the change management process.  The problem is that many of these change management processes are decades old and do not take into account the human side of the change management process.

For years IT has been seen as those “techie” people who keep to themselves.  Today the problem is that technology has become such a key part of most companies that, when new technology is implemented within an organization, it becomes as much an organizational change process as a system and infrastructure change process.

Believe it or not, when it comes to managing change, the technology is the easy part.  Unlike the systems side, where you can simply implement a group of controls and monitor the change management request, the human side of change requires a different list of tasks, in order to successfully achieve organizational change. 

Think about it.  Let’s say you are upgrading all the PC’s in your office, or moving to a new client-server environment.  On one side you have stacks of internal documents/emails, and notices announcing the new systems your organization wants you to put in place.  But that is not enough.  The hard part is dealing with the human element, not the technological one.  If you doubt the truth of this, think how often you have said to yourself, "This job would be easy if it weren't for the people.”  That is because most people’s first reaction to change is resistance.  Change can sap an organization's energy in a myriad of ways. Most of these reactions to change are fairly predictable.  The problem is, we are conditioned to spend a great deal of time worrying about and preparing to change to new technology, and a relatively small amount of time—if any— preparing for the human impact  of the change.

When most companies make the decision to implement new information technology solutions, they spend a great deal of time identifying technical specifications and interviewing vendors.  You would not have a moment's hesitation in taking the time to visit a colleague who has the system in place, or to run a pilot to ensure that the technology will work with your architecture.  But if you spent the same amount of time finding ways to prepare for the human side of change, your manager might question the pace of the project and you would feel as if you should have done it all faster and with less effort.

In reality we need to rethink this equation.  We need to prioritize our time and energy to anticipate and prepare for the inevitable resistance to the changes we're making.  We must develop strategies that will help us manage that resistance and ensure a successful outcome of the change.

Guiding change in organizations, therefore, is not just the business of designing new technologies, structures, and behaviors and training people to use them.  Guiding change has more to do with establishing the context within which people can really engage the needed changes. The primary rule of thumb for that engagement was succinctly stated a long time ago by our colleague Frank Delaney in his paraphrase of an old axiom about communication: “Tell me—I may hear; I may remember.  Show me—I may understand better.  Involve me—I will take ownership; I will add value and be committed.”

In order to successfully manage an information technology change in your organization you most remember that the days of predictability and stability in organizations are gone.  In today's IT world of rapid change, agility is a defining characteristic of successful, high-performance companies. It is essential that the ability of an organization to work at change be institutionalized.  To learn more about how your organization can achieve this, download our Ten Tasks of Change Checklist and learn a whole-systems approach to change and a model for dealing with rapid and intentional change in the twenty-first-century organization.

To learn more download your complimentary copy of The Ten Task of Change - Checklist. In it you will learn quick tips on how to successfully lead change instead of just managing it.


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