February 21, 2009

No Choice But to Change

It’s easy to get into a rut and just follow the status quo that we’re used to.

People do it all the time. It’s doing what we know. It’s comfortable. It’s less challenging. It feels less risky. It doesn’t “cause waves” with various stakeholders.

Don’t we often hear people say, “don’t fix it, if it ain’t broke”?

Here’s another more arrogant and obnoxious version of the anti-change sentiment: “don’t mess with perfection!”

And finally, the old and tried and true from the nay-sayer crowd: “we tried that one before.”

Unfortunately, what many of these die-hard obstructionists fail to acknowledge is that time does not stand still for anyone; “Time marches on.” Change is a fact of life, and you can either embrace it or make a futile attempt to resist.

If you embrace it and moreover become a champion of it, you can influence and shape the future—you are not simply a victim of the tide. However, if you resist change, you are standing in front of a freight train that will knock you out and drag you down. You will lose and lose big: Change will happen without you and you will be run over by it.

In short, it is more risky to avoid change than to embrace it.

Therefore, as a leader in an organization, as The Total CIO, you have an obligation to lead change:

  • to try to foresee events that will impact the organization, its products/services, its processes, its technology, and its people.
  • to identify ways to make the most of changing circumstances—to take advantage of opportunities and to mitigate risks, to fill gaps and to reduce unnecessary redundancies.
  • to develop and articulate a clear vision for the organization (especially in terms of the use of information technology) and to steer the organization (motivate, inspire, and lead) towards that end state.
  • to course correct as events unfold; the CIO is not a fortuneteller with all knowing premonition. Therefore, the CIO must be prepared to adjust course as more information becomes available. Sticking to your guns is not leadership, its arrogance.
  • to integrate people, process, technology, and information; the CIO is not siloed to technology issues. Rather, the CIO must look across the enterprise and develop enterprise solutions that integrate the various lines of business and ensures true information sharing, collaboration, and streamlined integration and efficiency. The CIO is a unifier.
  • to institutionalize structured planning and governance to manage change. It’s not a fly by night or put your finger up to see which way the wind is blowing type of exercise. Change management is an ongoing programmatic function that requires clear process, roles and responsibilities, timelines, and decision framework.
  • to bring in management best practices to frame the change process. Change is not an exact science, but we can sure learn from how others have been and are successful at it and try to emulate best practices, so we are not reinvesting the wheel.

Change is a fact of life, even if it is often painful.

I’d like to say that maybe it doesn’t have to be, but I think that would be lying, because it would be denying our humanity—fear, resistance, apathy, weariness, physical and mental costs, and other elements that make change difficult.

But while the CIO cannot make change pain-free, he can make change more understandable, more managed (and less chaotic), and the results of change more beneficial to the long term future of the organization.


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