Are you working on the right programs and projects to achieve the organization's objectives? Are you implementing the right changes?
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Are you exhausted? What about your team? Most organizations have various strategic and operational projects they are undertaking in addition to the day to day activities that are required to keep the lights on and the business running. With new business objectives emerging and new technologies being added to the long list of priorities, the relentless pace of change in the organization may be starting to wear on everyone. You and your team may be suffering from Change Fatigue.
Change fatigue is often experienced when people feel overwhelmed for an extended period of time. Dealing with a small number of changes is often difficult for people as they feel the need to protect themselves and the status quo. They want to maintain the current way of doing things as they feel comfortable with doing their job and meeting the expectation. They can usually manage a small amount of change without too much difficulty. In today’s world though, it is normal to have big changes taking place for extended periods of time due to technology, new or changing business objectives, and ongoing departmental efforts to become more efficient and effective. Add to the mix large long term initiatives like digital transformation or an enterprise resource planning implementation (ERP) and the stage is set for IT leaders and staff as well as business partners to be exhausted.
How do you diagnose change fatigue?
Change fatigue manifests itself in many different ways. Most people don’t recognize the symptoms. They are unable to see that change is affecting them or that they are change resistant. Unfortunately, individuals and teams rarely self- diagnose the issue.
Visible symptoms of change fatigue often include:
Individuals experiencing change fatigue may feel like every day work and projects are completely out of their control and that their voice isn’t heard when they provide input. Their productivity will decline as small tasks start to feel like they take a lot of energy to complete.
Treatment for Change Fatigue
To avoid change fatigue, organizations should first understand the level of change required based on their strategic and operational project portfolio. While organizational change management is often addressed at the project level, it is imperative that organizations continuously evaluate change at the portfolio level as well. Evaluating the entire scope of change associated with the current portfolio will enable the organization to identify themes relating to change and possibly streamline some organizational change management activities. It may also uncover significant concerns relating to the volume of change the staff and customers must adapt to in a specific time period to be successful.
If the organization is suffering from change fatigue, there are steps you can take to reduce the impact and slowly get back on track. It will take some time to recover as a magic pill does not exist. Consider the following actions to start the recovery process:
Change fatigue didn’t happen overnight. The organization experienced a gradual decline in productivity. It probably started with a handful of staff and spread to infect teams and divisions. Even with aggressive steps, it is a long road to recovery. Professional help is most likely needed to assess the recovery plan and help the organization take preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of future outbreaks.
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4 Questions to Help Craft Effective IT Communications
Information technology (IT) leaders and their staff talk about applications, network components, databases, storage, and servers every day. It is their job and often, their passion. It’s no surprise that many leaders in this field have a blind spot when it comes to communicating about the work that is occurring.
They often communicate about the technology rather than the results the technology is going to support or deliver. It is an easy trap to fall into and it is difficult for leaders and staff to recognize. It can be challenging for IT leaders and their staff to fully acknowledge that their customers don’t really care about technology. This is not a statement about IT’s value to the company. Without technology, everyone in the company can pack up and go home. IT’s value is immense. It is just a reality that people want to use technology to accomplish a task. It should be easy. They just need to do their job. They don’t even think about the technology until there is a problem. They shouldn’t have to think about it.
Many times, “tech speak” is the organizational norm. Business cases, presentations, reports, and project documents will all contain more information about the technology than the results it supports. This situation is quite challenging when the organization is attempting to introduce a new or changed service to the community it serves. To solve the problem, IT organizations began hiring organizational change management (OCM) professionals but it didn’t quite resolve the problem.
IT is still too focused on the technology and the OCM staff were often relegated to merely communicating what they were told. IT leaders are excited about technology and it is difficult to get the necessary buy in to change the overall focus of the message. The OCM staff didn’t have the technical background to serve as a translator which left them crafting messages that considered the end user but they were still technology focused.
Answering Four Questions will Significantly Improve Communications
1) What results will this initiative deliver to the company? The answer to this question is key. Put the business case aside. The communications don’t need to include the return on investment or net present value information. Using simple language, answer the question by considering how the company will benefit. Does the technology lay the foundation for new products and services? How does the technology enable the company to achieve the strategic goals? Every communication should talk about the linkage to the broader organization achieving results.
2) What is the benefit for the company or department staff? This is basically “what’s in it for me?” but when answering consider how the technology is going to fulfill a need for the staff member. Is it going to automate a complex process? Will it reduce the time they spend on specific tasks? Remember, people don’t care about the technology. They care about how it helps them. If you adhere to this basic idea, the answer to the question won’t include any technical information.
3) What happens if we aren’t successful with delivering this technology? Asking this question might seem counterintuitive as IT is planning to deliver. Every initiative experiences obstacles. The answer to this question is meant to motivate staff members to work together and achieve the goal. Normally, the answer to this question is incorporated into initial communications regarding the initiative as well as communications relating to some sort of challenge such as a schedule or budget change. Be careful when incorporating the information into communications as it should be a motivating factor. The answer shouldn’t spark fear or paint a picture that is all doom and gloom. It should focus on the business challenges that may occur and engage the staff in being part of the solution.
4) Where does someone go if they have questions or ideas relating to the initiative? The answer to this question should include specific people. Distribution lists are great but they do not encourage strong, meaningful dialogue. People need the option of contacting an individual rather than emailing a faceless distribution list that may never reply. Notice that having both questions and ideas are a part of this question. Encouraging the sharing of ideas may help to lay the groundwork for a stronger solution. Ensure the people noted in the communication are prepared to address both questions and new ideas and that they understand the importance of a timely response to anyone that contacts them. Even if they don’t have an answer, they should reply to let people know how they are handling the inquiry.
Communicating about technology won’t garner the support that is needed for IT related changes. It may have the exact opposite affect by instilling fear into the hearts of the end user as they are unable to understand what is happening or how they will do their job once the new technology is implemented. Fear often manifests as resistance to change which actually makes IT’s job more difficult. Focus communications on results, benefits, and business challenges to maximize the opportunity for success.
At AdOPT, we focus on culture, strategy, process, and innovation to improve performance, increase customer and employee satisfaction, and reduce costs.
Research by the Corporate Executive Board[i] (CEB) shows that when employees help to determine the right course of action and they are responsible for the implementation of the changes, the chances of success double and the implementation will most likely be faster.
IT staff that are actually doing the work need to be involved in creating the change necessary for their teams to become more efficient and effective. Whether you are implementing a best practice, a new type of technology, or going through a digital transformation, if you want a higher probability of achieving the expected return, the IT staff need to be engaged.
Engaging employees in determining the right process or technology changes isn’t as easy as merely assigning them an action. To be successful, the same CEB research also shows that leaders need to change how they communicate about the problem, the project, and the end result.
It is time to throw out the PowerPoint slides which encourage one way communication with the team.
The adoption of change requires a two way conversation right from the start. Rather than telling IT staff about the problem, leaders need to ask IT staff about the problem and how it affects the customer as well as completing their work. The staff are in the best position to understand the issues and the ramifications as they are actually involved in the work every day. They are also in the best position to solve the problem.
Once the problem is known, the IT staff need to be tasked with solving the problem and implementing the solution. Leaders may need to set limits relating to budget, schedule, risk, etc. but if the IT staff are charged with determining and implementing the solution, the adoption of the solution amongst the staff will be higher. The end result will be a stronger return on investment and most likely, a better customer experience.
[i] CEB HR, The Power of Open Source Change Management, May 2016
At AdOPT, we focus on culture, strategy, process, and innovation to improve performance, increase customer and employee satisfaction, and reduce costs.
Every IT organizations has processes. They may not focus on them after they are created but they do exist. The process includes the steps and decisions that are made to achieve a specific outcome for a customer. In IT, we often see processes relating to managing incidents, fulfilling requests, managing projects, managing change, etc.
Most IT organizations focus on operations at various points in time but improving processes generally means making small changes as a result of some sort of metric or process failure. Rarely do organizations look at how a process can radically change to increase the value that is offered to the customer. When assessing and making changes to processes, if the required results is to dramatically change the IT customer experience, deliver faster results through technology, or significantly reduce the cost of providing service, IT needs to embed innovation into the process. While many IT organizations focus on continual service improvement (CSI), few take the extra steps required to support process innovation.
Supporting process innovation requires enabling thinking outside of the box. Leaders and staff must work to produce results without considering the organizational boundaries that normally exist. Companies that support this type of activity are generally measuring employees on the amount of value they create or sustain vs merely completing specific tasks. IT leaders and staff often have difficulty understanding how IT can be innovative with their processes. It is much easier to understand how IT can support business innovation by allowing for new products, faster delivery of a business service, or automation which supports a cost reduction.
Consider the IT organizations that have focused on finding a way to offer a more consistent, continuous delivery of value to their business. Their efforts are part of the movement we now know as DevOps. DevOps required process innovation as radical change was needed to the change management process by modifying the archaic bureaucratic change management process which required numerous signatures to move code into a production environment. A change management process was still very valuable to an organization as it helped them understand and manage risk but the process had to change to become more nimble and allow for a continuous delivery model which supported a much faster pace of change occurring in the production environment. Many organizations are still evaluating how to make this transition and how this is managed is unique with different companies but modifying change management to support DevOps requires out of the box thinking. It is a great example of process innovation in IT.
When conducting problem management, some organizations merely complete root cause analysis but others have gone a step further. They look at the root cause of customer impact. This is an innovative step that allows them to potentially take dramatically different actions to improve the customer experience. With standard root cause analysis, IT staff evaluate what caused an outage so they can decide if it makes sense to resolve the root cause and reduce the opportunity for a similar outage to occur. When looking at root cause of customer impact, IT is evaluating how they could eliminate the root cause of why the customer even know there was an outage at all. This type of analysis allows IT to significantly reduce the opportunity for the customer to be impacted going forward. An application or system issue can still occur but the customer isn’t aware of the issue and they would still be able to work as if there is nothing wrong with the technology. Root cause of customer impact analysis is another example of process related innovation in IT.
Process innovation rarely occurs unless an organization focuses on how to make dramatic changes which create substantive value for the customer. The standard continual service improvement practices used by information technology organizations do not incorporate the steps necessary to achieve dramatic change. IT organizations should not ignore the opportunity that is created by instilling innovation into how they manage the day to day operations of their business. Taking the time to radically change the “IT process status quo” can not only improve the customer experience and lower the cost of providing service, it can result in increased employee satisfaction and engagement.
Supporting process innovation requires changes to both process development and continual service improvement processes. The more significant change is to the mindsets that exist in the IT organization. Making this leap requires that leaders recognize that not every change will be successful and failure is a necessary part of any innovation. Failure allows staff to test changes, learn from the process, and develop a stronger solution.
At AdOPT, we focus on culture, strategy, process, and innovation to improve performance, increase customer and employee satisfaction, and reduce costs.
Adopting a Best Practice in IT Requires Effort if You Expect to Achieve a Return
IT organizations usually take part in strategic planning sessions on an annual basis. They also create their own strategic plan. It helps them to accomplish the many objectives that are required to support the business needs of the company. Many times, this strategic plan is the impetus for implementing a best practice.
Ask any executive why they decided to use best practices such as ITIL, DevOps, SIAM, Lean, etc. and you will hear about how they needed to improve their effectiveness, tear down silo’s within their teams, reduce costs, etc. All of the results were needed to support the strategic plan for the business. Follow up with a question asking if they achieved the outcome they were looking for after they implemented the best practice and most likely, you will hear about disappointing or somewhat mixed results.
If the implementation of a best practice underpins a strategic initiative, why do so many best practice implementation efforts fail to yield the expected return? Does this mean the company’s strategic initiative fails because of IT?
The Importance of Having a Vision
For a best practice to achieve the return that is expected, it needs to be successfully adopted as a way of working. The IT staff need to believe it will benefit them and the company. The leadership and staff that are determining the course of action for best practice adoption need to have a vision for the future that everyone can understand. The vision for best practice adoption defines what the organization should achieve by using the new practices. It becomes the “true north” for anyone in the organization that is making a decision regarding the initiative.
Without a vision, the actions of managers and staff often fail to align with the original intent of the initiative. ITIL, DevOps, IT4IT, SIAM, Lean, etc. –Your IT staff will see them as the “flavor of the month” as they are unable to understand what the IT organization is trying to accomplish. It will just be one more task on their “to do” list.
A vision for best practice adoption sets broad direction. It stresses the value of the best practice. It should inspire people and serve as a guide for all decision making. It should be linked to the overall organization achieving its’ business objectives. It should help the IT staff understand how their work connects to the larger organization’s purpose.
Why You Need a Strategy to Achieve Your Vision for Best Practice Adoption
The vision helps staff understand the aspiration of IT when they are adopting best practices but how do you achieve the vision? It can seem very daunting especially when staff do not have experience with a best practice. For staff with experience, often the complexities of the organization and the day to day operations are enough to stop them in their tracks.
A strategy is needed to provide guidance on how you are going to achieve the vision. There are many different courses of action available to reach the destination defined by the vision. Which options are right for your organization given the business objectives, organizational constraints, risks, other issues, and opportunities that exist? By defining the path to reach the vision for your best practice initiative, you are further delineating what needs to be considered when making a decision and allocating resources.
A strategy is not a project. The strategy provides perspective on how you go from the existing state to the destination that was identified in the vision. Strategy sets the course to achieve the vision. The actions that are defined based on the strategy will often form the basis for projects.
Will a Vision and Strategy be Enough to Deliver Results?
A vision and strategy alone will not deliver the intended results but they are foundational. As noted above, the strategy will set the stage for additional actions. Projects are usually created to support the strategy.
In addition, IT should focus on how to help the IT staff and customers adopt the new best practice.
The best practice needs to become the “new normal” that guides the behavior of the entire IT team. Focusing on implementation of the strategy or the actions associated with the strategy will not change behaviors. Implementation focuses on the fulfillment of a particular set of requirements. When the requirements are fulfilled, the implementation is considered complete.
Adoption of a best practice is very different than the implementation of a best practice. Adoption focuses on influencing the attitudes and behaviors of the staff so the use of the best practice is not considered a requirement that needs to be fulfilled. It becomes a new way of working that the staff can’t live without.
Organizational change is often a strategy associated with the vision but is also needs to be a component of every project that is initiated to support the strategy. The focus is the adoption of the best practice rather than merely implementing the best practice.
Why did the Company’s Initiative Succeed Even Though the Best Practice Initiative in IT Failed?
Corporate level initiatives are generally large and complex. The journey to accomplishing these initiatives is often adjusted along the way to compensate for challenges in various areas. Even if the best practice initiative in IT doesn’t yield the expected results, the corporate initiative will most likely succeed but it won’t be at the level that was possible if IT had delivered the expected return. The results are diminished.
Delivering Results from Best Practice Adoption Requires Effort
By now, most of corporate America knows the statistics that 70% of projects fail to deliver the expected results. This research has been conducted numerous times over the past 20 years. Focusing on the adoption of best practice by IT staff and customers and taking steps to set the right course by defining a vision and strategy will help IT to beat the odds.
Developing a vision and strategy are key to helping the team understand what is expected and they provide guardrails for decision making. By further developing an organizational change strategy and plan for best practice adoption, IT will be six times more likely to achieve the expected return on investment and if the best practice is linked to a corporate strategy, IT will be supporting a much stronger result for the broader organization.
Strong business results, greater efficiency, higher employee engagement, increased customer and employee satisfaction, and lower costs are all potential results from IT adopting best practices. Achieving these results requires some extra effort but IT and the broader organization will reap the rewards.
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It is time to break away from the status quo when developing ITSM processes.
Most organizations view the various processes associated with IT service management (ITSM) as internal IT related processes meant to help the IT department be more structured and efficient. They implement processes without considering how they impact the customer and the company. The adoption of best practices isn’t linked to an overall strategic plan and the value of the processes being implemented is never fully recognized. In many cases, the processes may help IT but they become detrimental to the broader organization and they negatively impact customer satisfaction.
When developing processes, it is fairly standard to identify the process purpose and description, inputs, activities, outputs, roles and responsibilities, and policies without really considering the true opportunity that exists and how all of the associated work can benefit the customer and the larger organization.
A significant opportunity exists when you step back and take the time to look at the problem that needs to be solved rather than following the standard practice of developing and implementing ITSM processes. Consider how the processes may change if you first approach the problem in the context of the overall business. This creates an opportunity to find innovative solutions that contribute to the business achieving their objectives which will ultimately improve customer satisfaction with the IT organization.
Rather than merely focusing on processes from the perspective of IT, reevaluate the problem you are trying to solve in the context of your corporate objectives and your customer objectives. Defining a problem statement is a good place to start and it will change how you go about determining the solution and ultimately, defining ITSM processes.
Let’s look at an example for incident management. What is the problem you are trying to solve? Many organizations will say the problem is reducing downtime for the customer. Is the problem we are trying to solve reducing downtime? This is an objective. It isn’t the problem. Why do you want to reduce downtime? The problem could be that technology challenges and outages cause a lack of productivity or loss of revenue. When looking at the problem, look at the bigger picture in terms of the broader organization and the customer.
If the problem statement is too narrow or if there are assumptions made about the problem, the resulting solution will be fairly stagnant. The opportunity to find a new or innovative solution is significantly diminished. If the problem statement is incorrect, the solution will not have the anticipated impact.
The conversation and solution associated with reducing downtime versus technology challenges and outages causing a lack of productivity or a loss of revenue will vary greatly. Framing the problem statement from the corporate and customer viewpoint will open up the opportunity to find a very different, innovative solution. As a result, often there are changes to the activities associated with a process, new roles and responsibilities identified, additional processes implemented, and existing process deficiencies illuminated.
Many IT organizations struggle with the concept of framing the problem based on the company and the customer. They worry that the solution will not be based in the reality they face relating to resource constraints, technology, or funding. Every department faces similar challenges. If boundaries are noted when defining a problem, the opportunity to be innovative is immediately eliminated. A bit of realism can easily be applied as your processes are being developed but it should not be used as a limitation when defining the problem statement.
Beginning your process development work by defining a problem statement for each process will result in an overall stronger process set that supports business objectives and improves customer satisfaction.
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What have you done that is innovative? Senior IT leaders believe their teams are innovative but often, they are merely operating within the boundaries that already exist. Leaders may task their teams with finding innovative solutions but without a focused effort, it is difficult to accomplish. IT staff are generally focused on keeping the lights on by solving day to day issues or completing their tasks for the next project.
Innovation requires a concerted effort with support from senior leaders to explore new ideas that may or may not deliver the intended result. If staff haven’t been working in this type of environment, this doesn’t come easy. It isn’t as simple as just giving the team a vision, telling them to explore possibilities, and then giving them a deadline. Unfortunately, this is how many IT organizations work.
"Innovation is seeing beyond the status quo to create significant change to products and services, processes,
or your business model."
It can be difficult for leaders to fully internalize how their reactions can shape the attitudes and behaviors of their teams. IT staff need to think out of the box but in the past if they presented a solution that wasn’t within the existing norms of the organization, it was shot down. Perhaps it didn’t follow a technology standard or it required a high level conversation with another executive. To the staff, it seemed minor. Regardless of how the message was delivered, what they heard is that they need to follow the standard way of doing business.
Three Key Actions for I.T. Leaders to Begin the Journey Toward True Innovation
Take steps to create true innovation within I.T. and for the broader organization. While there is an initial investment, the return will be well worth it.
Don’t miss our upcoming blog article on innovation with IT service management. It is time to break away from the status quo when adopting best practices. Join our mailing list today!
If you are involved in implementing DevOps practices or if you are researching DevOps, you know that culture change is critical to success. Developers and Operations must work together to create high quality deliverables on a frequent basis. For most organizations, bringing Developers and Operations closer together is a significant cultural shift. It is the most important aspect of transitioning to DevOps practices. Without fully addressing the people side of DevOps, you can only make so much progress.
The various DevOps discussions and materials tend to focus on the behavior and subsequent culture change required within the IT organization but what about the business. If you are going change how IT works and delivers services to the business, there is a business impact. They are the customer. They need to be prepared to have discussions about the value of various requirements and deliverables. These discussions require someone at the table that can make decisions about functionality that delivers value, resources that may be required for user acceptance testing, the business impact of delivery schedules, etc.
In the last fifteen years, IT leaders often talked about wanting a seat at the table with the business. They wanted to be involved in strategic decision making and offer advice and counsel on the various initiatives that the business was undertaking. Many IT leaders struggled with achieving this level of involvement. Now there is a new opportunity. In a sense, DevOps creates a brand new table and the business is definitely interested but they need to be involved in the planning as well as the execution so the entire organization can fully recognize the value of changing how the work is delivered.
The culture change required for DevOps involves more than just IT. It needs to include the rest of the business. IT provides foundational technology for the entire company and it may create services that are sold to the community.
It’s great the Development and Operations are recognizing the value of tearing down the silo between the organizations but to be truly successful, it is time to remove the silo that exists between IT and the business. Any organization adopting DevOps practices needs to focus on the behavior changes required across the entire organization.
It’s a new day. DevOps practices involve more than just IT. The business needs to adopt a new mindset as well. Organizational change plans that address IT behavior need to consider the behavior of their business partners as well. The business needs to take the journey with IT to achieve the expected return.
When adopting DevOps practices, engage the business in the early discussions prior to making changes. Even if you want some time to test and learn within the IT organization, take the first step in tearing down the wall that exists between IT and the business. Bring the business into the conversation. Talk with them about your objectives and ask them about the results they would like to see from this type of initiative. Partner with them on developing a strategy and path forward.
Engaging the business in the early conversations relating to DevOps will help to gain their buy in. The behavior change from the business will evolve as DevOps practices evolve in the organization. They will have a voice in the adoption of the changes and while IT Development and Operations are adjusting to a new way of working, the business will be planning and adjusting as well. Inviting the business to the table along with Development and Operations will strengthen the end result and help to tear down the silo’s that have existed for far too long.
To be successful, the adoption of DevOps practices requires a cultural shift from IT and the business. Take the journey together to achieve a much more valuable outcome.