Hard Truths about Change - Lessons Learned from Central Ohio IT Leaders.org

March 08, 2019 5 min Read

With a great deal of help, I put together an IT leadership development program – Central Ohio IT Leaders.org – in 2017 for aspiring CIOs in Central Ohio.  The following message is my effort to share what I’ve learned from the tremendous CIO guest speakers that have presented as part of the program. Central Ohio IT Leaders.org is a peer group that meets monthly to network, discuss ideas, learn from experienced speakers, and establish collaborative relationships with the goal of nurturing the next generation of Columbus IT leadership. Several times throughout the year, the peer group will host CIOs as guest speakers to discuss various aspects of IT leadership. The following lesson learned is based off of my interpretation of a recent presentation by Bruce Barnes, a very well respected educator in Central Ohio, most well-known for his continuing professional development series CIO Solutions Gallery.  I met Bruce in 2005 while I was at Platform Lab, but got involved with his CIO Practicum/Solutions Gallery events about the time I moved to Expedient in 2011. The content and the speakers at the CIO Solutions Gallery are outstanding, and I learn each time I attend.  If you are in IT leadership, it is well worth investing your time in participating in these sessions. His presenting partner, Thornton May, will often ask very difficult questions that the attendees will work through in small groups.  The working groups are very different from event to event and that is one of the best parts about attending – working on hard questions with very smart people with different viewpoints. During 2018, the theme of the CIO Solutions Gallery series was Leadership, which worked very well for Bruce’s presentation.

Change is hard, it is daily, and it is constant. It causes stress and it is essential to survive.

As industry leaders, we do not have to predict the changes the future will bring, but we do need to prepare for them.  It is great to be right, but the key is to be ready! Bruce believes that there are four key aspects to understanding change:

  1. Change is predicated on some measure of dissatisfaction with the present state
    • Quite often, people and organizations become so set in their ways that they do not realize how bad their present state is.  I was speaking to a group recently that is working in a data center.  They all agreed that they preferred to stay working at that facility, doing the role that have been doing. When I asked what the facility was like, they all mentioned that they hated it…it lost power often, it was old, run down, smelled, and that they often had to come in at all hours to fix emergencies.  When I asked if they would prefer to keep it that way, they all said yes – as they did not know any better alternatives, they assumed their dissatisfaction was normal.
    • Another point to this story is that change is hard and often hard to grasp – as Bruce explains in his next point.
  2. To facilitate change, there needs to be a developed vision for a better alternative to the present state
    • There are people in the world who find tremendous joy in identifying a problem and offering solutions to resolve problems. Sometimes they are visionaries and sometimes they are reviled, often based on how they offer their solution.
    • I believe it is all in how you can communicate why change needs to happen and why it will resolve problems.  We learned in IT Leaders about the five different leadership styles and how you need to communicate with each style.  The best form of communication is to be as tailored as possible to your core audience.
  3. Strategies must be developed to effectively implement that change
    • While communication of change will often be found in the voice of one, the effective implementation of change is often found at the team level.  This is where a team or organization can prove or eliminate their value on how well they can perform the tasks required for the change.  Organizational alignment can be found on the strategic and the tactical levels and both are vital for success.
  4. There will be resistance to change along the way
    • To say there are many layers to this last point would be an understatement.
    • Some people will agree that a proposed change will be great for the organization and/or for themselves.
    • Others will think it is the wrong move and will expect the project to fail.
    • Some others will resist all change no matter what they are.

I could discuss this point forever. Perhaps the best quote Bruce called upon in this class was about those that look to stifle change: ” “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant or the scared. ”General Colin Powell For what it is worth – my favorite rock & roll lyric is in the same vein:  “Changes aren’t permanent, but change is.”  -- Neal Peart, Rush In next week’s post, I will share another lesson learned from Bruce Barnes as he discussed the hard truth about Leadership at a recent Central Ohio IT Leaders.org meeting. If you’re interested in discussing the IT Leaders program, digital transformationcloud technology or how to get involved with Central Ohio’s IT community, please reach out to me at steve.gruetter@expedient.com.

Steve Gruetter Steve Gruetter

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