This week's MIT Sloan CIO Symposium brings together MIT academics and CIOs to discuss how IT leaders can overcome some of the common hurdles to
Achieve change through open decision making and shared accountability
At a time when CIOs and IT leaders are urged to keep up with the pace of technology change, I'd argue that they must also pay attention to how business is changing as a result of technology.
When new technologies are introduced and implemented, the effects are often most prominent in the leading-edge parts of the organization. But there are always folks at the other end of that curve that are unable, unwilling, or unmotivated to make changes. CIOs must think about these individuals and how they impact technology-driven change management if they want to be more effective in driving true business impact.
For us in Red Hat IT, and I think for many global organizations contending with many different needs, change management can’t be a one-time event if it’s going to be successful. Implementing change consistently and at scale is a major challenge; in most organizations it's not feasible to connect personally with every individual in the organization and work on their unique technology needs.
It's not just an IT issue; the same requirement for change is present on the business side. As business processes change, as products change, as customer requirements change - the organization needs to remain flexible and effective. Fortunately, IT and the business can partner to invest and manage change effectively. How? Inclusive decision making and shared accountability are a good place to start.
We are fortunate in Red Hat and Red Hat IT to have an open and inclusive decision-making process, but there is still a need for us to be flexible, adapt, and evolve. As we've grown we’ve needed to enhance our processes over the last couple of years and inject a greater degree of formality. In a smaller organization, it's easier to get the right people together in an electronic venue and just figure out the best solution, but that becomes more difficult in a larger organization when you don’t always know who the right people are. And it's not possible or effective for everyone to participate in every decision.
We've formalized our open decision-making process by identifying representatives who speak on behalf of different groups within the organization, essentially evolving toward more representative decision making rather than direct decision making. It's been a fundamental and necessary change over the last couple of years as we've expanded, and it enables us to keep inclusive decision making a high priority. We still encourage individuals to share their thoughts, of course.
Shared accountability is another catalyst for effectively managing change in the face of rapidly changing technology, but it's not easy; it is something that has to be developed, earned, and maintained. Even at Red Hat where an open, collaborative, transparent model is very much a part of our culture, we still have to earn it, and it's something that requires significant effort.
In order to establish shared accountability, CIOs must convince their business partners that they are trustworthy, capable, and appropriately cost-effective. Then ideally, with inclusive and open decision making processes in place, they can build on that partnership and get even more value once they are collaborating and jointly setting the business direction and priorities.
To get started, CIOs should pick one or more partners who are willing to work with them. Then develop the capabilities in IT and the interaction model between the two organizations to ensure a collaborative, open, and transparent process exists. As that effort matures, work to replicate it across the enterprise.
Managing change is a crucial skill for CIOs, and one we should be willing to invest in. This level of change management goes beyond project discipline to manage change. CIOs and business leaders must also develop the communications and relationship disciplines necessary to manage change at the business and enterprise level. And, as technology and the evolution of business continue to disrupt all of us, change management is a challenge that we must conquer before our competitors figure it out first.