Many of the articles I’ve written and presentations I’ve given have focused on reducing the impacts of organization, process or technology changes on staff. Having said that, an issue I perceive with many of the clients I’ve worked with is the assumption that such changes come at no cost or pain to affected staff.
I would be hard pressed to think about any strategic change initiative that I’ve been involved with or have witnessed that did not leave some carnage in its wake – leadership’s focus should be on minimizing or proactively controlling damage, but not on attempting to create a state of no churn. Otherwise, you are not implementing change, you are trying to maintain the status quo or to satisfy the totality of a democracy.
This illusion that change comes at no cost is dangerous – Information Week had a good article on the leadership team at Rockwell Automation that is realistic – the line that stuck with me from this article is from their CIO: “Our business processes and practices will change significantly, and we will accept some disruption to achieve the ultimate benefits.”
This assertion acknowledges two key principles:
1. Change hurts – someone, somewhere in the organization is not going to be happy or will struggle with the change, no matter how logical, beneficial or commonsensical it may be.
2. The net benefits realized from a change are rarely achieved right away, and will likely take longer depending on the magnitude of the change.
Now this might seem completely obvious to all of you, but think of how many projects you’ve worked on where a basic expectation was that there would be no disruption to operations stemming from the deployment of the project’s deliverables.