Companies implementing information projects tend to be undergoing organizational change as well. Or at least it seems that way to me. In any event, dealing with change is inevitable in an information management career. Understanding you are in a period of change followed by an adjustment of your approaches to various situations can help immensely.
The Challenge of Change
In times of change, organizations face major challenges such as retention and morale issues as well as maintaining high-level work results. Productivity is under assault during change. Information projects need to go forward, but the team members may be confused or, worse, demoralized by the activities going on around them. I’ve found that information projects which ignore the important aspects of organizational change do not produce good results, regardless of the best-laid architecture and technology plans.
Often, change is undermanaged and, therefore, stressful. That is the bad news. The good news is that during these times, there are numerous opportunities to deliver results. Successfully coping with and managing organizational change – and by extension a successful information project – requires awareness, motivation and discipline, resulting in personal excellence that will filter to the rest of the information project team. Here are some tips to manage change in a way that ensures success of your information project.
Tips to Manage Change
The right approach. It is a natural reaction for people and teams to resist change. Create and adopt an empathetic approach to dealing with change and realize that employees who appear to be going with the flow in times of change probably are not. The common reactions resulting from organizational change are most likely being experienced by everyone on the project team, even if they are not on display. Job preservation becomes a major concern. Where people need to live without closure – or at least information – on their personal situation, gossip and rumor fill the void. We see this all the time during business interviews for information projects. Because a company’s issues will take a back seat to personal issues, getting the issues that personally affect people out in the open and dealing with them will clear the way for dealing with company issues.
A healthy pessimism. Maintaining a healthy pessimism about the outcome of projects during change is, well, healthy. Early on, anticipate obstacles from those commonalities that most information projects find challenging. This includes data quality, business participation, query performance, data volume management, getting the specification correct and building to the specification. Expect trouble. To do otherwise is giving yourself false hope. You can only come to grips with problems that you are familiar with. Every employee is an agent in this regard, and each viewpoint should have an outlet. Make the truth welcome.
Focus and discipline. Focus. Focus. Focus. I have to say it – discipline is in short supply in information management. While many programs are addicted to firefights and flavors du jour, those who exercise control and discipline far outdistance their peers in success. The trick is to make yourself do the things that are important, even if it doesn’t feel like fun. We get spread thin with all the roles we play, and often we’re left with little that is tangible to show for our efforts at the end of the day. That’s why a set of daily nonnegotiable “to do’s” will help ensure progression through the tough times that change brings.
Obviously, production presents an easy set of daily nonnegotiable tasks through checking data movement, query performance, data quality and all the things that keep a production environment healthy. Likewise, development has opportunities for daily progress, but often they must be more creatively manufactured.
Deadlines can drive discipline. If I don’t have externally imposed deadlines, I create them for myself. I’m grateful for deadlines because they are the key to staying focused through change.
Self-control and teamwork. Finally, control yourself in the face of change. If you don’t, your focus and discipline problems will be exacerbated. During change, it is easy to forget that teams win together. It is not necessary for someone else to lose or for those around you to feel small for you to win.
Information management and organizational change initiatives often go hand in hand. While it is human nature to resist change, employing a few simple tips and techniques for managing change can make all the difference in any information project. Empathy, healthy pessimism, focus and self-control are key tools to successful change. Your personal excellence in dealing with change will overcome obstacles, inspire others and lead to successful information projects. The result is that information management is fun, the time flies and performance breakthroughs occur.