Executives leading change are in a situation much like Moses’ when leading the Israelites through the desert to the Promised Land. There is the desire for relief from the constant complaining. The loss of resolve or simply being tired can create a yearning for a quick fix or a simple solution. One of the most common forms of giving in to this temptation is clinging to misconceptions regarding technology and its benefits.
Two of the deadliest misconceptions are the belief technology by itself solves problems and the belief human nature changes with new technology. Sales agents can play upon this by proposing something that has the phrase, “All you have to do is…”
So, before you part with your hard-earned money for the latest-and-greatest system let’s look closer at these sweet, deadly poisons and their remedies.
Misconception: Technology Solves Problems
The assumption with this misconception is the problem and the solution are external to the people and organization. Somehow the problem and solution are separate from individual ownership of risks and responsibilities associated with change. Problems will go away by signing a purchase order or contract. A false sense of confidence develops proportional to the blindness present. The situation is similar to the person speeding down the freeway without a map. They don’t know where they are going but they sure are making great time! Typically, in the end everyone is miserable and unhappy. The client scapegoats the vendor and the vendor says the client provided no direction and needs change orders.
Remedy: Solve the Problem First
Technology doesn’t solve problems, people solve problems. For a successful implementation of technology in a changing environment first focus on the principles discussed in the previous two blogs:
- Change Management #1: Leadership: Navigating with an executive map and compass
- Change Management #2: Morphing Organizations: The executive samurai and complexity theory
Work with your teams to know where you want to go, build a map of the business terrain, build a plan, and organize your people to move towards the goals.
This begs the question, “If it’s not the solution just what is technology?” The answer is in the word itself. The root for “technology” is the Greek word “techne,” which means, “to craft, to build, to put form to, to bring into existence.” In other words it’s a means to an end not an end in itself. It is a tool for building the solution.
Briefly, what you want to do is solve the problem first (functional specification) then pick the vehicle for expressing it (technical design specification).
Misconception: Technology Changes Human Nature
This misconception assumes providing an external something will improve people’s attitudes, sense of responsibility, and performance. Cooperation will spontaneously increase with new technology.
Remedying: Resolve Political Problems First
The reality is most people resist change and want to hold on to their personal agendas. I discovered this in the first few years of operating my business. Networks were at its heart. Some clients were a dream and others were nightmares. These differences influenced my answer to an apparently simple question, “What is a network?” The best answer, the one that made the most sense and was immediately understood was, “A network is a hard-wired political system.” Laughter ensued.
With change the concern for self increases and people become stressed. Stress can lead to unpredictable behavior. Even small, unpredictable behaviors can be quite serious in complex, changing situations. Why? Small behaviors can have a disproportionately large impact on a complex system by pushing it past a tipping point. For example, in November, 2001, at the largest airport in the world, Atlanta Hartsfield, a Georgia college student passed through security then ran back through it and down an escalator to get a camera bag left in a coffee shop. September 11, 2001, was two, short months ago. Security reacted quickly, shutting down the terminal. The domino effect shut down almost all flying in the United States for the rest of the day.
This brings up a second answer to the question, “What is technology?” The answer is, “Technology is an amplifier. Applied properly it can make a good situation better. Misapplied, it can make a bad situation worse.” In the end, the more time spent getting everyone on board with the change management process and associated technology the better.
In the next blog we will look at team building and dealing with the challenges of human nature.Through his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at email@example.com or through Twitter at @garymonti