There is growing awareness that technology is no longer the barrier to making progress and organizational performance improvement. The primary barrier is social and cultural; it involves people. That means we need to better appreciate behavioral change management. However, few if any of us were trained in behavioral change management – rather,we are specialists in our own fields.
Why is this relevant to professionals involved with information management and the problems and opportunities that information technology can address? The list of reasons is long, but a good example is the imminent impact of cloud computing and software as a service in reducing the size of the IT workforce. They will need to be prepared for what is about to happen to their profession. The IT function is becoming more of an enterprise service center with a shift in emphasis toward infrastructure system uptime and reliability – keeping the lights on for users. The users are increasingly taking on the tasks of developing their own solutions, especially with business analytics, to gain insights and make better decisions.
Don’t Be Delusional
Much is being written and discussed about the wall dividing IT and the user. That wall must be removed. There will need to be a shift from face-to-face adversarial confrontation to a side-by-side collaborative relationship.
Part of the problem is how IT and users view each other. Users view IT as an obstructionist and uncooperative gatekeeper of data without the understanding or skills to convert that data into useful information. Experienced analysts want easy and flexible access to the data and the ability to manipulate it. IT typically restricts or prevents this. Users view IT as bureaucrats who are inclined to say things like , “If you want a report, submit a request and I will program it for you.”
In contrast, IT views users as competitors who may solve problems but don’t have to operate the solutions – they just make it harder to better manage capacity costs by using too many resources. And IT sees users as a risky group that has low regard for data governance and security.
IT professionals would be delusional if they believed they could continue to operate with traditional practices. Users need speed and agility to be reactive and proactive, which requires them to be closer to the data for analysis and better decision-making. Both IT and its users will need to collaborate and compromise by better understanding and appreciating each other’s changing roles.
Transitional Versus Transformative Change
Change can be gradually progressive or abrupt and disruptive. An example of an industry undergoing the latter is electrical utilities. The conservation movement is resulting in efficiencies from both manufacturing (particularly appliance and automobile manufacturers) and residential consumers who are receiving home monitoring devices for feedback to better control their power consumption. The utilities industry is being forced to shift its profit model from growing demand to providing services, almost like consultants, to help consumers reduce demand.
The executive leadership of the utilities industry – and of almost every industry and government – will need to shift from transitional leadership to transformational leadership. The former is about a short-term focus on daily tactical issues. The latter transcends daily events, aligning and empowering organizational resources with primary, long-term objectives: solve problems, seek opportunities, generate profitable growth and bring value.
All transformations obviously require change, but transitional changes are not transformative. We can get hung up on the semantics, but the main point is that incremental improvements may be too slow to position organizations for the competitive environment they will be facing.
Transformative Leadership for IT
The primary reason that change management initiatives fall short or fail is due to an excess emphasis on the change management process and not enough on the people who are affected.
Transformational leaders create positive change in employees and partners as well as consider everyone’s interests. They lead by taking actions for the betterment of the whole organization. Transformative leaders consider not only why you say something but also how you say it. This means the leadership style must address the motivation, morale and performance of employees. For the imminent changes that IT will be facing, transformative leadership will be critical. IT and users must be brought together because ultimately they are on the same team.
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