3 change management issues that keep IT leaders up at night

For today's IT leaders, disruption is status quo – and it brings some common fears and stressors. Consider this advice to counter uncertainty and empower your team
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For many of us, IT challenges can cause sleepless nights. As IT teams persistently leverage technology to solve business problems, rapid change is accompanied by fear of the unknown.

For example, at the start of the pandemic, companies were forced to adopt a hybrid cloud strategy to meet the tsunami of consumer digital demand. Making that change meant racing into the unknown for IT teams. There was no certainty about what would – and would not – work.

[ Also read: Change management: 4 tips for leaders on embracing human nature. ] 

I have learned that the biggest impediment to disruptive digital transformation is not testing and trying new solutions – it is fear. Disruption is scary. IT teams worry: What if we fail?

Here are three persistent fears that IT execs and their teams face during disruptive transformation:

  • The overwhelming rush of new tools, new systems, and new problems.
  • Fear of being in the wrong role: It becomes scary for IT team members because it can be difficult to perform – and people are often afraid to speak up.
  • Fear of burnout: Heaping on too much change can cause team members to burn out and leave the company.

3 ways for IT teams to handle change successfully

So how can IT leaders meet these challenges and sleep better at night?

Give permission to fail

First, realize and assure your teams that there will always be unknowns with such challenging positions. Vendors will tout new systems and tools as soon as they hit the market with promises of better efficiency, cost savings, and improved revenues. Some of those claims may be true. But there is little advantage of being the first to embrace new technology. Let another company vet the capabilities of new technologies before you invest money.

It’s also best to test the technology in your environment before making a final commitment. Give your team members permission to test different ideas, realizing that some, maybe even many, will fail. Permission to fail opens the door for new ideas and more creativity.

Stagnation will kill the contributions that IT teams make to the business. Just look at two companies that failed to recognize technology shifts – Kodak, for example, actually had a digital camera in 1975 but didn’t invest in it further. Similarly, Sears was an early entrant into online sales but failed to support its e-commerce channel.

Permission to fail opens the door for new ideas and more creativity.

The lesson: If experimentation with a new technology is successful, follow through. If it isn’t successful, figure out why. Was it the technology that failed, or the implementation?

Encourage team members to explore other roles

Knowing that they can experiment and fail will also encourage your team members to speak up if they feel they aren’t in the best role. It’s in their best interest – as well as yours and the company’s – to ensure that all team members are in the role where they can make the biggest contribution. Perhaps someone on the cybersecurity team is stressed by the constant, growing threats from hackers, for example, but has the technical skills to support e-commerce or another critical area of the organization.

[ Want more on change management? Read How to hire change-ready people: 8 signs. ] 

Open discussions can help team members decide if they are in the right role or if they should pursue one in which they can be more effective. Some members may need retraining to enable them to see new opportunities.

Communicate – constantly

Constant communication is imperative. Everyone on your team should understand fully why there are any changes in technology and why other solutions aren’t being pursued. This will not only help them stay current with the latest cybersecurity threats but will also help ensure team members are in their optimal roles. We like to employ a method of saying something seven times in seven ways to assure that all team members are on the same page.

With constant communication, there is understanding. With understanding, your team will take ownership of the change. This is crucial. People with information are empowered to make the right decision. And empowered people are freed from some of their fears.

Experiment with new technologies and empower your team members to try them out. Encourage them to look into new roles within the IT department, and communicate thoroughly and often. In doing so, you will sleep soundly at night.

[Where is your team's digital transformation work stalling? Get the eBook: What's slowing down your Digital Transformation? 8 questions to ask.]

Satyajeet (Randy) Randhawa is Senior Vice President of Product Development & Support at Virtana. He leads all aspects of development, testing, devops, support, and cloud operations for Virtana’s products.