March 13, 2015

Change will falter without a leader

Merja Rinta-Erkkilä

Executive Business Consultant, Tieto

From the perspective of change management, what makes a good project? It's the leadership that is committed to the project.

In the words of 19th century author Alphonse Karr, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." This translates to, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Studies have revealed that major corporate changes are difficult to pull off and that as many as two thirds of all such projects fail (Harvard Business Review)

The problem is not technology. According to Kotter and Cohen (2002), the problems are more human-related:

  • New solutions are not accepted
  • There are issues with staff skills
  • There is miscommunication
  • There is a scarcity of project resourcing

I have participated in several change processes which involved changing organization and operating methods to fit new strategies. All of these changes included an IT project.

Other implementations included diversified, centralized, harmonized, or hybrid business steering. The goals were increasing transparency, using local and global leadership, or seeking an agile mobile solution.

In all of these cases, people were also required to change their operating methods when new technology was deployed.

So, what makes a good project from the perspective of change management, whether the project is an ERP implementation or something like the launch of a digital business?

The answer is the leadership that is committed to the project. The change management process links the business objectives that are defined for the project, new working methods, and technology projects into a seamless entity. Only then can all of the parties work towards a common goal in a measurable fashion.

A leader is required for decision-making to ensure that staff members do not get stuck on the problems at hand. It is necessary to take bold steps to overcome hurdles and move forward. In the best projects, committed business managers define a target state and objectives. The project managers work in synch with the business managers.

However, the entire organization must be on board. Interaction is needed when decisions are made regarding how the change will affect joint operating methods, and it must go beyond traditional organizational silos. Interaction involves both extensive inspiration and innovation, as Tieto's strategic consultant Katariina Segerståhl states on her blog.

On the best projects, the direction is clearly stated by business management. Change indicators are set and they are regularly and frequently monitored.

In a world of various dependencies, time is a valuable resource. Problems must be solved quickly by working together.

Mentoring and coaching are important tools. Often, external consultants can supply the energy and momentum required to reach the finish line. The benefits of investments are materialized only when the new organizational methods are put into operative use with a planned timeframe.

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