Eliciting or facilitating organizational change can be very difficult. Whether it be the adoption of DevOps or replacing your existing IT service management (ITSM) tool, getting management and then employee buy-in is often far more difficult than you think it will be. What advice would you give to others struggling with organizational change issues? Or do you need advice?

We asked a number of the presenters at the 2016 itSMF UK conference a related question: What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to facilitate change in their IT organization/get management buy-in? This blog shares the responses to the question from:

What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to facilitate change in their IT organization/get management buy-in?

What’s interesting about the following eleven responses is not only that they’re different answers, with a few but not may common themes, but also that they take a number of different perspectives of what the change the question refers to.

  1. Roy: First, understand what brings value to your company. Next, understand how your IT organization contributes to that value—and that may be the difficult part. Make sure you’re measuring the things that reflect these value-added activities in ways that management can understand and interpret. Deliver these metrics in an easily consumable form, according to management preferences. (Data visualization can be extremely helpful.) Make your case based on data and solid goals.
  2. Barry: Context, context, context. Understand and communicate how change will benefit YOUR people, YOUR customers, and help you achieve YOUR organization’s objectives. Show how procrastination and inertia will hurt EVERYBODY. Then you’ll be pushing at an open door. The key? Understand not just the best practices (ITIL, DevOps, etc.) but how they can be leveraged to deliver on key strategic issues facing your organization at the time of change, i.e. the reasons and drivers for it.
  3. James: The big mistake we make is believing we can generate buy-in as if by magic. In reality you need to buy into other people’s vision and build change on that shared vision. 
  4. Mike: Find the data that backs up the change you wish to see, experiment in a way that doesn’t need management buy-in, and build a case based on demonstrable improvement.
  5. Kevin: Successful change starts with agreeing that the change is needed at all. It also needs involvement from key players. Do your homework, get a group of you together to look at how something works today (the people that do the work, not just the managers!), and document what doesn’t work as well as it could. Value analysis can be useful for this. Then all discuss and check that the change you want fixes the issues.
  6. Ivor: In terms of IT change management – identify, honestly report, and forecast that “key metric” – damage. Articulate how much damage your less-than-optimal change process caused last year, and how much it could cause next year unless you improve it. Put your efforts where they will make the most difference. Standard change is the nearest thing ITIL has to a silver bullet. Understand why and fire it in the right direction.
  7. Stephen: Understand that change is a team sport. It’s very hard to get an individual to engender change (or to convince the upper echelons to support a particular change), so seek out likeminded colleagues who can help to create the required groundswell for change.
  8. Tony: Find a burning platform/something that is really causing pain to the business and show how IT can really address the issue and take away the pain rapidly.
  9. Stuart: Firstly, make sure that you’re making the right change, and that it’s within your scope of control. Secondly, make sure that you don’t try to make too many changes at once, or changes that are bigger than they need to be. Follow the agile approach of making incremental changes rather than trying to force enormous change onto an organization that isn’t ready for it.
  10. Chris: People need to pause and ask themselves the right questions. Is what they’re trying to implement aligned with what the business really needs? Have they truly listened to the answer? It’s vital to listen, understand, and align with the company’s vision and aspirations. Engage and communicate early with the staff and teams so that they become the champions of change/the driving force for change and help you deliver through engagement, empowerment, and alignment.
  11. Mark: Get management buy-in by translating techno-drivel into benefits, costs, and risks in which IT is not even mentioned, and that align with the managers’ corporate and personal agendas.

So what do you think of these points? What do you agree and disagree with? What would you add? I’d love to know, so please leave me a comment below.

  • Sanjeev NC

    I operate with a simple principle/philosophy that helps me in sales as well : “Everyone’s selfish”

    Our job, as Change drivers, is to show them exactly what they will benefit out of the said change and you’ll see them nodding more often than not.

  • Karen Ferris

    Although perhaps alluded to, no-one has mention identifying where there is resistance to change and putting in tactics to overcome it. Unless we understand the causes of resistance (and there will be resistance) we cannot overcome it. Don’t assume because you think it is a good idea, that everyone else will!

    • Sophie Danby

      Excellent point.

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