Is Change Management a Myth or a Possibility

The theory that it is possible to manage organizational change (Change Management) in a particular direction has done the rounds for quite some time, but is it true about Change Management. Was Barrack Obama correct when he said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Or, was business coach Kelly A Morgan more on the button when she commented, “Changes are inevitable and not always controllable. What can be controlled is how you manage, react to, and work through the change process.” Let us consult the evidence and see what statisticians say.

What the Melcrum Report Tells Us
Melcrum are “internal communication specialists who work alongside leaders and teams around the globe to build skills and best practice in internal communication.” They published a report after researching over 1,000 companies that attempted change management and advised:

• More than 50% report improved customer satisfaction

• 33% report higher productivity

• 28% report improvements in employee advocacy

• 27% improved status as a great place to work

• 27% report increased profitability

• 25% report improved absenteeism
Sounds great until we flip the mirror around and consider what the majority apparently said:
• 50% had no improvement in customer service

• 67% did not report increased productivity

• 72% did not note improvements in employee advocacy

• 73% had no improved status among job seekers

• 73% did not report increased profitability

• 75% did not report any reduction of employee absenteeism

This shows it is still a great idea to hear what all parties have to say before reaching a conclusion. You may be interested to know the Melcrum report gave rise to the legend that 70% of organisation change initiatives fail. This finding has repeated numerous times. Let’s hear what the psychologists have to say next.
There is a certain amount of truth in the old adage that says, “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.” Which of us has not said, “Another flavour of the week … better keep heads down until it passes” during a spell in the corporate world. You cannot change an organization, but you can change an individual.
At the height of the Nazi occupation of 1942, French philosopher-writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral”. Psychology Today suggests five false assumptions change management rests upon, THAT ARE SIMPLY NOT TRUE.

1. The external world is orderly, stable, predictable and can be managed

2. Change managers are objective, and do not import their personal bias

3. The world is static and orderly and can be changed in linear steps

4. There is a neutral starting point where we can gather all participants

5. Change is worthy in itself, because all change is an improvement

Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” A prophet can work no miracles unless the people believe. From the foregoing, it is evident that change management of an organization is a 70% impossibility, but encouraging an individual to grow is another matter.
A McKinsey Report titled Change Leader, Change Thyself fingers unbelieving managers as the most effective stumbling stones to change management. To change as individuals – and perhaps collectively change as organizations – we need to “come to our own full richness”, and as shepherds lead our flock to their “promised land”, whatever that may be. Conversely, herding our flock with a pack of sheepdogs extinguishes that most precious thing of all, human inspiration.

Large scale corporate transformation

Large scale corporate transformationLarge scale corporate transformation are the necessary actions required to increase performance in an organization. It leads to greater performance results and greater organizational growth. It is a lasting change and can range from getting new leaders to combining the functions of different departments. It can also involve the introduction of a new phase in the life of an organization. Large scale corporate transformation can be measured using three variables. The first variable involves determining how deep the change penetrates to all levels of the organization. The second variable measures how entrenched it becomes in the organization while the third measure determines the percentage of the organization covered in the change.

Corporate transformation is essential for a company that seeks to have a greater impact and a longer life in its business sector. The process requires time and resources. The whole establishment needs to support it for success. Not only does the top management need to back it, but stockholders and staff members also need to buy the idea. This is because when the process of corporate transformation hits a barrier, it will take the entire organization to keep it on course and complete the process. Without the support of everyone, most organizations will not complete the process.

Business transformation in recent times has begun to combine finance, HR and IT departments into one functioning piece of an organization. This has resulted in leaner, faster, and more efficient corporate entities that produce high results and has a greater impact in its overall functioning. These three key departments are the backbone of any organization, and the combination of the three creates an efficient organization that translates into high performance results.

One crucial aspect of large scale corporate transformation is IT transformation, which entails the entire overhaul of any organization’s technology systems. It adopts a more efficient platform that enhances its overall operation. IT transformation involves the use of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and open systems. This process is the revamping of the existing technology used to support the organization and is critical for aligning the business functions to the mission of the organization. It touches on the current hardware and software and how they can best be improved upon for greater results. This process is necessary in the entire business transformation.

The question that needs to be addressed is how any organization can make this process successful. First, it requires the understanding that it is not just a goal to be achieved, but a new way of thinking embraced by the entire organization. Secondly, the leadership in place needs to be fully involved and dedicated to the process and to realize that it takes time and effort to complete such a mission. There also needs to be flexibility and adaptability in order to learn from mistakes and keep moving forward. Constant communication is also critical to ensure that everyone involved understands the current stage and the next steps to be done. Change is the only constant and is necessary for progress and success.

Why Executives Fail & How to Avoid It

The ‘Peter Principle’ concerning why managers fail derives from a broader theory that anything that works under progressively more demanding circumstances will eventually reach its breaking point and fail. The Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, who was decidedly anti-establishment added, “All public employees should be demoted to their immediately lower level, as they have been promoted until turning incompetent”.

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The Peter Principle is an observation, not a panacea for avoiding it. In his book The Peter Principle Laurence J. Peter observes, “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence … in time every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties … Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.”

Let’s find out what the drivers are behind a phenomenon that may be costing the economy grievously, what the warning signs are and how to try to avoid getting into the mess in the first place.

Drivers Supporting the Peter Principle

As early as 2009 Eva Rykrsmith made a valuable contribution in her blog 10 Reasons for Executive Failure when she observed that ‘derailed executives’ often find themselves facing similar problems following promotion to the next level:

The Two Precursors

  • They fail to establish effective relationships with their new peer group. This could be because the new member, the existing group, or both, are unable to adapt to the new arrangement.
  • They fail to build, and lead their own team. This could again be because they or their subordinates are unable to adapt to the new situation. There may be people in the team who thought the promotion was theirs.

The Two Outcomes

  • They are unable to adapt to the transition. They find themselves isolated from support groups that would otherwise have sustained them in their new role. Stress may cause errors of judgement and ineffective collaboration.
  • They fail to meet business objectives, but blame their mediocre performance on critical touch points in the organization. They are unable to face reality. Either they resign, or they face constructive dismissal.

The Warning Signs of Failure

Eva Rykrsmith suggests a number of indicators that an individual is not coping with their demanding new role. Early signs may include:

  • Lagging energy and enthusiasm as if something deflated their ego
  • No clear vision to give to subordinates, a hands-off management style
  • Poor decision-making due to isolation from their teams’ ideas and knowledge
  • A state akin to depression and acceptance of own mediocre performance

How to Avoid a ‘Peter’ in Your Organization

  • Use succession planning to identify and nurture people to fill key leadership roles in the future. Allocate them challenging projects, put them in think tanks with senior employees, find mentors for them, and provide management training early on. When their own manager is away, appoint them in an acting role. Ask for feedback from all concerned. If this is not positive, perhaps you are looking at an exceptional specialist, and not a manager, after all.
  • Consider the future, and not the past when interviewing for a senior management position. Ask about their vision for their part of the organization. How would they go about achieving it? What would the roles be of their subordinates in this? Ask yourself one very simple question; do they look like an executive, or are you thinking of rewarding loyalty.
  • How to Avoid Becoming a ‘Peter’ Perhaps you are considering an offer of promotion, or applying for an executive job. Becoming a ‘Peter’ at a senior level is an uncomfortable experience. It has cost the careers of many senior executives dearly. We all have our level of competence where we enjoy performing well. It would be pity to let blind ambition rob us of this, without asking thoughtful questions first. Executives fail when they over-reach themselves, it is not a matter of bad luck.

Why DevOps Matters: Things You Need to Know

DevOps creates an agile relationship between system development and operating departments, so the two collaborate in providing results that are technically effective, and work well for customers and users. This is an improvement over the traditional model where development delivers a complete design – and then spends weeks and even months afterwards, fixing client side problems that should never have occurred.
Writing for Tech Radar Nigel Wilson explains why it is important to roll out innovation quickly to leverage advantage. This implies the need for a flexible organisation capable of thinking on its feet and forming matrix-based project teams to ensure that development is reliable and cost effective.
Skirmishes in Boardrooms
This cooperative approach runs counter to traditional silo thinking, where Operations does not understand Development, while Development treats the former as problem children. This is a natural outcome of team-centred psychology. It is also the reason why different functions pull up drawbridges at the entrance to their silos. This situation needs managing before it corrodes organization effectiveness. DevOps aims to cut through this spider web of conflict and produce faster results.

The Seeds of Collaboration
Social and personal relationships work best when the strengths of each party compensate the deficiencies of the other. In the case of development and operations, development lacks full understanding of the daily practicalities operating staff face. Conversely, operations lacks – and should lack knowledge of the nuances of digital automation, for the very reason it is not their business.
DevOps straddles the gap between these silos by building bridges towards a co-operative way of thinking, in which matrix-teams work together to define a problem, translate it into needs and spec the system to resolve these. It is more a culture than a method. Behavioural change naturally leads to contiguous delivery and ongoing deployment. Needless to say only the very best need apply for the roles of client representative, functional tester and developer lead.

Is DevOps Worth the Pain of Change?
Breaking down silos encroaches on individual managers’ turf. We should only automate to improve quality and save money. These savings often distil into organizational change. The matrix team may find itself in the middle of a catfight. Despite the pain associated with change resistance, DevOps more than pays its way in terms of benefits gained. We close by considering what these advantages are.

An Agile Matrix Structure – Technical innovation is happening at a blistering rate. The IT industry can no longer afford to churn out inferior designs that take longer to fix than to create. We cannot afford to allow office politics to stand in the way of progress. Silos and team builds are custodians of routine and that does not sit well with development.

An Integrated Organization – DevOps not only delivers operational systems faster through contiguous testing. It also creates an environment whereby cross-border teams work together towards achieving a shared objective. When development understands the challenges that operations faces – and operations understands the technical limiters – a new perspective emerges of ‘we are in this together’.

The Final Word – With understanding of human dynamics pocketed, a DevOps project may be easier to commission than you first think. The traditional way of doing development – and the waterfall delivery at the end is akin to a two-phase production line, in which liaison is the weakest link and loss of quality inevitable.

DevOps avoids this risk by having parties work side-by-side. We need them both to produce the desired results. This is least until robotics takes over and there is no longer a human element in play.

How DevOps Could Change Your Business

Henry Ford turned the U.S. auto industry on its head when he introduced the idea of prefabricating components at remote sites, and then putting them together on a production line. Despite many industries following suit, software lagged behind until 2008, when Andrew Clay Shafer and Patrick Debois told the Agile Conference there was a better way to develop code:
– Write the Code
– Test the Code
– Use the Code
– Evaluate, Schedule for Next Review

The term ‘DevOps’ is short for Development and Operations. It first appeared in Belgium, where developers refined Shafer and Depois’ ideas. Since then, DevOps became a counter movement against the belief that software development is a linear process and has largely overwhelmed it.

DevOps – A Better Way
DevOps emerged at an exciting time in the IT industry, with new technology benefiting from a faster internet. However, the 2008 world recession was also beginning to bite. Developers scampered to lower their human resource costs and get to market sooner.
The DevOps method enabled them to colloborate across organizational boundaries and work together to write, quality assure and performance test each piece of code produced in parallel.
DevOps’ greater time-efficiency got them to market sooner and helped them steal a march on the competition.

There are many advantages to DevOps when we work in this collaborative way. Cooperation improves relationships between developers, quality assurers and end users. This helps ensure a better understanding of the other drivers and a more time-effective product.

Summary of DevOps Objectives
DevOps spans the entire delivery pipeline, and increases the frequency with which progress is reviewed, and updates are deployed. The benefits of this include:
• Faster time to market and implementation

• Lower failure rate of new releases

• Shortened lead time for bug fixes and updates

The Psycho-Social Implications of DevOps
DevOps drills through organization borders and traditional work roles. Participants must welcome change and take on board new skills. Its interdepartmental approach requires closer collaboration across structural boundaries and greater focus on overarching business goals.

Outsourcing the detail to freelancers on the Internet adds a further layer of opportunity. Cultures and time zones vary, requiring advanced project management skills. Although cloud-based project management software provides adequate tools, it needs an astute mind to build teams that are never going to meet.

The DevOps movement is thus primarily a culture changer, where parties to a project accept the good intentions of their collaborators, while perhaps tactfully proposing alternatives. There is more to accepting a culture than using a new tool. We have to blend different ways of thinking together. We conclude by discussing three different methods to achieve this.

Three Ways to Deploy DevOps in your Organization
If you foresee regular DevOps-based projects, consider running your entire organization through an awareness program to redirect thinking. This will help non-participants understand why DevOps members may be ‘off limits’ when they are occupied with project work. Outsourcing tasks to contracting freelancers can mitigate this effect.

There are three implementation models associated with DevOps although these are not mutually exclusive.

• Use systems thinking. Adopt DevOps as company culture and apply it to every change regardless of whether the process is digital, or not

• Drive the process via increased understanding and feedback from key receivers. Allow this to auto-generate participative DevOps projects

• Adopt a continuous improvement culture. DevOps is not only for mega upgrades. Feedback between role players is paramount for success everywhere we go.

You can use the DevOps concept everywhere you go and whenever you need a bridge to better understanding of new ideas. We diminish DevOps when we restrict its usefulness to the vital role it plays in software development. The philosophy behind it belongs in every business.