“Transformation” projects that involve significant upheaval to job descriptions, reporting lines, goals, and funding are an almost constant occurrence in most corporate IT teams around the world.
Despite this, many teams still take a project-by-project approach to managing it all. They make significant investments in consulting and training for individual initiatives that must be repeated for each additional change. This episodic approach worked when these changes occurred only occasionally, but it has now become costly and counterproductive.
Change — and the expectation of more to come — is also stressing employees out. Almost two-thirds (or 62%) of employees agree that their stress level has increased in the past two years, leading to a significant loss of productivity.
The best way to manage these projects is to help employees “self-propel” the changes by showing them how to keep performing at the same level during and after the changes are made. CEB surveyed more than 6,000 employees globally and compared the impact of over 100 variables on employee performance during change.
Analysis of the data showed that getting employees bought-in to whatever change is underway is not enough to ensure they keep performing at the same level throughout. Although gaining buy-in has a small positive impact on performance, improving employees’ capability to adapt and work through times of change has over three times as much impact.
Five Types of Support
In fact, winning buy-in without also increasing an employee’s capability to change will only create more stress. Senior IT managers should provide five pieces of support to help their teams through change initiatives.
Comprehension: First and foremost, employees need to be able to find the information they need to independently adapt to the changes they are asked to make.
For instance, a customer contact associate will have to quickly find and interpret information on a new collaboration tool to continue handling live service interactions.
Agility: Employees also need to have the time and ability to adjust to their new conditions.
For instance, an application developer who is planning for a transition to Agile practices will need extra time and energy to learn new development methodologies.
Network: Employees need to be able to build a strong network for collaborating and getting help during any IT transformation.
For instance, a new-to-role IT service manager will quickly have to build relationships with business partners to develop a new service strategy.
Direction: Employees need to understand what to do and what not to do so that they can focus on the right activities.
For example, a new-to-role business analyst will need to understand internal stakeholders’ changing needs and how to prioritize their requests.
Outcome expectations: Finally, employees also need to be able to predict potential outcomes and implications of their work decisions, while their work or priorities are changing.
For instance, a product development specialist will need to adjust his or her market opportunity analysis based on changing strategic priorities.