A Successful Major IT Project

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

A Successful Major IT Project


Robert Mitchell conducted a fine interview for Computer World. (5/21/12)The Grill: TASC CIO Barbie Bigelow Builds an IT Infrastructure from Scratch

Here is my response:

It’s great to read IT success stories. Don’t get enough of those. Since Ms. Bigelow mentioned the challenge of change management, I have three suggestions that I’d like to offer her. (I advise leaders on the challenge of building support for change, and especially why people resist change. Many of my clients are IT leaders.)

Ms Bigelow –

I found that people support change or resist it for three reasons. If its resistance, then:

Level 1: They don’t get it.

Level 2: They don’t like it.

Level 3: They don’t like you.

Any one of those can slow you down, all three together can kill a project. What you need in order to build support and commitment among “the 64 partners and vendors” is the opposite of those items on that list: People need to get it. Like it. And trust you.

You said, “Now we’re focusing on content and the change management aspect of that, a process that helps people understand how to share and the rewards of sharing. This is more on the people side than the technology side.”

That is great. I would urge you to do three things:

  1. Focus on content like you plan to do. I imagine you and your team know what to do. Level 1 issues are usually the easiest to resolve.
  2. Find out the emotional reasons why various stakeholders (that includes employees) might be excited about the changes or fearful. Most people are leaning one way or the other. (They are not likely to be on the fence.) If you need their support in order for the changes to stick, then most of the stakeholders had better be leaning in the direction of excitement and commitment. When that happens you’ll know it. People will be volunteering and taking on leadership roles and tasks to make the transformation a success.  You’ll be able to sleep all through the night again!
  3. While you’re finding out how people are reacting (fear or enthusiasm) find out what they think of you and your team. (I know that can be hard, but it can be worth it.) The importance of trust in the leaders is often ignored in technical environments and they pay a price for that. When people trust you and believe that you’ve got what it takes to lead a change this big effectively, they will give you the benefit of the doubt. They will help connect the dots in ways that serve the project. But, if they think the clowns are running the circus, then you will be in big trouble. If people don’t trust their leaders, providing more content won’t help.

But it sounds like you are off to a great start and your instincts about next steps seem sound (from my outside perspective). I wish you well.

Rick Maurer


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