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Saturday, 18 May 2013 04:04

Change Management: The Zombie Apocalypse

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IT has almost killed change management - but it's had help

So the other day I read a funny-because-it's-true piece over on Toby Elwin's blog:  "Change management is dead - the rumor". 

Toby writes:

"OK, Information Technology, you win.  You can have it.  You've ruined it beyond all recognition anyway.  Only left me a shell of a concept that, at one point, had so much to offer an organization.  The 'it' I longingly refer to: change management and today change management is dead because the I and T of Information Technology has killed it."

Change management isn't quite dead, yet, but it's starting to look like Shaun of the Dead out there, and IT had a lot to do with it, especially when it comes to technology-related projects.  However, IT wasn't alone:  Companies, looking for an easy way to 'transform' their organizations without having to spend money on the messy transformation of actual 'people', have a lot to answer for as well - and their culpability extends well beyond the technology-related change initiatives.


Organizations talk a lot about how people are their 'most important asset', but it's funny how when it comes to enterprise change, their often reluctant to spend money on the expertise to manage the people component of that change.  Which is odd, because when you think about it, it doesn't matter how great your new systems are - if your people aren't ready to make the shift to them, they aren't going to deliver the value you were hoping for.

Mind you, IT has been an accomplice in this process.  IT consultants tend to think that if the technical specs and Gantt charts are mapped out in sufficient detail, the people piece will magically follow.  The "and then a miracle occurs and it works!" line in the project plan.  Except that people are more emotional than Gantt charts and mostly don't care about the delights of a new relational database.  They tend to need a little more communication, a little more training, and a little more engagement than even the best GUI can offer in order to successfully navigate a change.

Are people even included in the diagram?

I can't even tell you the number of times I've sat in a boardroom listening to C-suite execs tell me how frustrated they are with the fact that the last 3 technology-related 'transformations' have been a disaster and failed to deliver the ROI they'd promised at the outset.

And then they show me the diagram that the IT department/consulting firm gave them, and I see the problem:  There's no 'people' component.  The diagram usually looks something like this:

ridiculous venn diagram change management


When there's more time allocated to bug testing than to ensuring that the end users not only know how to use the system, but have fully engaged with the change and are equipped to get the most out of it, it's no wonder that the 'transformation' never delivers the promised ROI.

Successful Change = People + Process + Technology

In an effort to drive ROI, there's a push to commoditize change - and assume the people are mindless zombies who will fall in line when the launch happens. 

It's easy to say that the problem is that IT types don't 'get' people, but I think it's more helpful to remember that successful change is a combination of People + Process + Technology.  The IT team - and the organization - knows they need specialzed Technology and Process experts.  They just often forget that they need specialized People experts, too.






Read 5288 times Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013 06:36

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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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