Most IT project managers, senior managers and CIOs don't really understand what change management is. And the reason they don't understand it is that they have never learned what it is and how to do it. IT professionals and managers do not typically attend the types professional development programs that teach change management. Notice, I said professional development programs, not training programs.
You see, there is a big difference between training and professional development. Training is about building the necessary skills to get the job done--new software tools, security procedures and so on. IT does a lot of this.
Professional development, on the other hand, is more about, well, development. It's about acquiring the deeper understandings, strategies and tactics required to become a more effective professional and manager. A really good professional development program leaves the attendee with a certain sense that his or her world has been changed. The attendee now sees more clearly his or her role and how to fulfill it. IT does very little of this.
Change management sensitivities and capabilities are classic soft skills built through personal and professional development. They are the kinds of skills that are honed in professional development programs that are not tied to a system or to a technology. And, as much as they are spoken about in IT surveys or referred to in management platitudes, providing these kinds of programs to IT managers is very much the exception as opposed to the rule.
Whose Fault is it Anyway?
IT professionals and managers are much to blame for this situation. Being techies, they always want to know about the latest tools and techniques. Long after they leave the coding trenches, many IT managers still gravitate toward technically oriented training and conferences. But it's not just their fault.
CIOs talk a good game about the importance of building relationships, selling ideas, understanding the business and so on, but they don't do much to really invest in building these skills for their people. And you know what? Your people notice it. They see that you are willing to invest in technical training and just talk about professional development and change management, and so they do exactly the same. They invest in user training and just talk about change management.
If you want to see your projects successfully drive change with your business users, it's time to send your people back to school. That is, the right kind of professional development program that helps them build long-term competencies in the areas most needed by IT managers. Areas such as:
influence building. (How could I resist that one?)
With these skills in hand, your IT team members will begin to understand how to go about driving change with the business community they serve. And you will end up with fewer problem projects. If you're not sure where you can find programs like this, write to me at email@example.com. I'd be happy to share a list of programs for you to review and figure out which makes the most sense for your and your organization.
About the Author
Marc J. Schiller, author of "The 11 Secrets of Highly Influential IT Leaders," is a speaker, strategic facilitator, and an advisor on the implementation of influential analytics. He splits his time between the front lines of client work and evangelizing to IT leaders and professionals about what it takes to achieve influence, respect and career success. Download a free excerpt of his book at http://11secretsforITleaders.com
This article was originally published on 08-29-2011