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Herding the Smart Cats: Successful IT Change Leadership

catsThe people that are drawn to IT, “the folks who are really good at technology”, are generally also free thinkers when it comes to how to solve a problem or create something. This can makes getting them all to use the same process rather difficult, according to Maya Townsend. But there are ways to smooth out the difficulties of getting technologists to all work together using the same principles and methods. Townsend points to a former client that managed to implement the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and bring their technologists all under the same process. The CIO of that company put in place a few items that made the change to CMM work.

First, the CIO identified the people in the organization that everyone knew and interacted with. These people acted as the team that implemented CMM to the rest of the organization. Since they were already respected, trusted, and known, they were able to motivate and enforce the change more effectively. The CIO then made sure that the executive team was actively involved with the change. The executive managers reinforced CMM processes in team meetings, in hallway conversations, and whenever it seemed most appropriate. This communicated to the rest of the team that the new CMM process was already integrated at the top, and that helped them see the value of performing the change. On the opposite end, the CIO also made sure that their employees where engaged in the change process as well:

 Technologists tend to be smart thinkers and savvy problem-solvers. They're also not particularly good at swallowing new processes without tasting them first. The CIO recognized this and sponsored many ways for employees to be involved in the design and delivery of the new processes. The project used a pilot approach which allowed the project team to test before implementing on a large scale. It also launched semi-yearly engagement surveys which measured perceptions of and progress towards adoption.

 By doing these actions (among others), the CIO was able to get more of their staff assessed as operating at level 3 certification in half the time expected. Productivity increased, defects were reduced, and customers were much more happy with the products and services they received.

About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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