Making Changes to Your IT Department – 8 Things an IT Leader Should Know

Have you ever heard the phrase "When senior management does not know what to do, they reorganize"? I'm not sure if this is always true, but it sure seems as though when times are tough reorganizations , restructuring , and even re-engineering are things that can happen to any department in IT. What's an IT Leader to do about it?

Change Sucks
One of the weirdest facts about a career in IT is that the thing that draws us to this field is that it is so dynamic . However, its been my experience that IT staff can be some of the people who are the least open to accepting changes from the way that things are currently being done.

As an IT Leader you are dealing with two issues at the same time : you need to personally come to grips with the change and you need to find a way to get your team to accept and embrace the change also. Have you ever been trained on how to do this?

8 Ways For IT Leaders To Deal With Changes
On one hand you have "the change". On the other hand you have your team. As an IT manager you need to find a way for these two things to live together in harmony. I've got 8 tips on how you can make this seem impossible task possible:

  • Do not assume that people have a natural ability to change : all too often IT leaders think that they can just tell their team about a change and it will automatically become part of the routine. Most people are going to need constant encouragement to make and stay with any change that disposes their existing routine.
  • Do not assume that people will function rationally : once again, assuming that members of your team will do what you expect them to do once a change is announced is foolish. Instead, think for awhile about how people might react if they do not like the change – how would you go about resiting or subverting the change if you were just being told about it? Take steps to make it easy to comply with the change.
  • Do not assume that change is automatic : just saying that things have been changed does not mean that people will automatically change their behavior. You need to set things up so that doing things the old way is now hard, but doing them the new way is easy.
  • Do not assume that organizations are naturally dynamic : changes that require people to stop doing jobs or start doing new jobs are the toughest to implement. You need to understand that when you make changes to a workflow it's going to slow everything down and it will take awhile for the team to get back in the swing of things again.
  • Do not assume that company culture is easy to change : "but that's the way that we've always done it" is a powerful statement. Changes that span multiple departments take longer for everyone to accept because they are changing the company's culture. It does not matter if the company had a lousy culture, change is still not appreciated!
  • Do not assume that every aspect of the project will work out as planned : the larger a change is, the more steps will be required to implement the change. Plans are great things, but rarely do they work out exactly the way that you wanted them to. As an IT Leader you need to be ready to step in when something goes wrong and fix it.
  • Change managers can not be effective without explicit authority : the best way to implement a change in an IT department is to have helpers – feet on the street who will be responsible for making the actual changes that are called for. These staff members can not hope to be successful if you do not make it clear to the rest of the team that they have your full support and authority to make the change happen.
  • Do not just assume that anyone can be an effective change manager : since nobody likes change, nobody likes a change manager. When you pick your lieutenants you need to make sure that they are made of the right stuff and will be able to tough it out and overcome team adversity to make sure that the changes get made.

Final Thoughts
It sure looks like the world continues to move even faster these days and changes just keep on coming. New company owners, new management, new technology, and new competition all seem to be working together to keep things quite dynamic .

IT Leaders need to develop the skills that are needed to implement changes within their teams. No, they will not always agree with the changes that they are being asked to implement, but they are obliged to implement them anyway. If you can figure out how to do this correctly, then you will have found a way to transform yourself from an IT manager into a true leader .

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