This blog is the first in our three-part series on “Successful IT Change Management,” in which we’ll discuss ways to build a culture that understands the necessity and value of change, and navigates it successfully. In this installment, we’ll address resistance to change—one of the most common and important challenges facing IT organizations.
Change is a constant—especially in the digital era, as rapidly evolving technologies and ways of working transform the workplace. For the business, this ongoing transformation represents new opportunities for growth and competitive advantage. For users, however, all this disruption doesn’t necessarily come as good news—especially when new systems and learning curves break the continuity of their familiar business flow. This isn’t just a matter of comfort level or convenience. Employees’ perceptions of their changing roles and processes can have a real impact—positive or negative—on the corporate bottom line. It’s up to IT to manage change in a way that ensures the best acceptance and adaptation possible for each change that comes through the pipeline—not matter how fast or how often they arrive.
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A certain amount of resistance is inevitable, of course, as different staff members respond to change in different ways. Some may welcome the change and embrace the new technology without complaint, while others perceive it as a potential threat to their jobs. Others may not even care as long as it doesn’t directly impact their ability to do their jobs. And then there are people who just don’t like change in general. Whatever the nature of the resistance, a little careful planning can go a long way to mitigate it.
The first step is to understand where the resistance is coming from. Try taking a user’s perspective, and imagine the many thoughts and concerns running through his or her mind. Did the IT team provide enough information about the impending change or just suddenly announce and implement it without sufficient adjustment time? Has there been adequate advanced training, along with an explanation of the benefits provided for new processes and procedures, or is it all opaque? There are issues of organization and status to consider as well. What will this change mean for a given employee’s position? Will it impact individual levels of authority and, if so, who will be directly affected?
Sometimes change can be burdened with the baggage of a less-than-ideal dynamic between IT and an individual user, or with the business as a whole. Were any employees or employee representatives, including those outside of the IT department, empowered to be part of the decision to make the change? When were they brought into the process? Will this be another change for the sake of change, with the same negative outcome as past “experiments?” Is this “technical innovation” going to fail the same way all of the others did? Why did we have to change it in the first place?
Again and again, the fundamental question is: what’s going to happen now? Fear of the unknown, in the change paradigm, can be a powerful, negatively motivating force. That makes information and its dissemination key elements of the change process, and central to the plans you make. While making sure that IT Change Management and related processes align with the individual goals of a business, you must never overlook their impact on the employees and how they work. Similarly, the impact restrictions have on change managers, project managers, and others involved in change management processes must be given every consideration. The imposition of restrictions should never be severe enough to make the performance of their jobs difficult or painful to perform. Severe and overly limiting restrictions are counterproductive to the change process and impede the effective flow of information.
Resistance to change can be the downfall of any IT initiative—but conversely, by understanding, addressing, and neutralizing opposition to IT change, you can make every project you deliver more effective and successful for the organization.
In our next blog, we’ll talk about practical ways to lay a foundation for IT change.