Many organizations either don’t understand or avoid organizational change management (OCM), choosing rather to focus on the technical elements of change. Of course, this ignores that the human factor could be integral to failure of a change programme.
Today’s self-service technology and agile development means people are exposed to rapid technology change and, for many, it just works. However, not everyone responds to technology in the same positive way – many need support to adopt new ways. Meanwhile, IT professionals – who sometimes consider dealing with the human factor as difficult and messy – can embrace “shiny object syndrome”: focusing on technical features and functionality, which are easier to fix than the sensitive issues of behaviour change in organizations. They fail to devote time to addressing OCM unless explicitly required to do so.
But attending to the human factor has an undeniable urgency as it is likely to be the biggest critical success factor in effecting change.
The Essentials for Improvement within ITIL Practitioner describes the things that are needed for any improvement to succeed. A review of them illustrates the importance of OCM as without effective OCM, we cannot achieve and maintain these essentials.
Change requires people to devote their time and effort, even when they feel they’re already “tap dancing as fast as they can.” We cannot expect people to commit themselves, however, if we don’t help them. The essentials for improvement are about:
- Helping people understand what the organization is trying to accomplish and why; a.k.a. clearly explaining the objectives and how the objectives are relevant to the overall company mission
- Ensuring strong and committed leadership that believes in, and will fund, the initiative and that shows the grass roots of the organization that they’re serious
- Getting individuals to participate willingly, because they understand why the changes are relevant to their own lives and to their team, and what they’re going to get out of it. Answering the question, “what’s in it for me?”
- Creating prepared participants – people are usually afraid of change, primarily because of the uncertainty. They don’t know exactly what they will have to do and how they will have to do it.What will be expected of them? Communicating with them, training them and giving them the right tools will reduce their fear and in turn make them more willing to change
- Sustaining the momentum by reinforcing and even institutionalizing the change, reinforcing the value of change and showing the proof of how the change has made things better.This work shows that improvement is not just a one-time event; people will have to continue working on the next thing and the next thing. This is a central theme in the work of OCM.
Organizations must work to maintain these five essentials for improvement over time and to objectively measure and communicate progress. That also means revisiting objectives and articulating their importance to people.
When starting a change programme, having access to the skills and methods within ITIL Practitioner, including OCM, along with the nine guiding principles, will help embed a change mind set in the organization that and gets people moving in the same direction towards a business outcome.
It’s important to remember, however, that changing an organization does not happen overnight. The first steps of a true commitment to continual improvement are like moving into a new house. The first effort seems like a big change, and it is. But it is not the end. The process of living in the house is a constant process of change and growth. By applying the principles and leveraging the skills embodied in ITIL Practitioner, individuals and organizations will find they have fewer growing pains and that the changes aren’t scary any more – they are exciting and even fun!
See our ITIL Practitioner section for more information.
Read Lou Hunnebeck's previous blog for AXELOS, ITIL® Practitioner: The Challenges with Testing Practical Skills.