Because the staff, culture and history of every company is different, what each CIO chooses to emphasize in a change-readiness assessment will differ as well. What's important is to ensure that each of the five facets of assessing change readiness are dealt with. When Blitch deployed an ERP system at Tessenderlo Kerley, he began by creating a sense of ownership for all involvednot only for those in his IT department, but also for the employees of the company as a whole.
Blitch proceeded to systematically conduct interviews with executives at each level of the company, starting with the CEO, to determine their readiness. Because most of his firm's business is seasonal, with half booked in the early spring, Blitch decided that the succeeding nine months would be the least disruptive time to install ERP.
To help ensure his staff would be ready for the project, he confirmed with the CEO and the other executives that there was no other project the company might want to do in that nine-month timeframe that would be more important than the ERP installation. Blitch then set up a three-day series of facilitated meetings with department heads and about two dozen employees from each of the company's departments. By asking them what they needed, he was able to address their concerns. At the same time, he was able to assess the company's ability to deal with the changes a new ERP system would bring. He then chartered the department heads to choose the ERP package they felt best suited their needs. Both of these steps served to increase their sense of ownership and, not coincidentally, their willingness to contribute to the project.
Culturally, Blitch felt he had a staff that could roll with change, because he had already seen evidence of its flexibility in the past. When he came onboard, one of his IT staffers was a few weeks away from getting his Novell certification. "I said congratulations," remembers Blitch, "but we're moving to NT." That staffer tackled the NT environment, and now is a key member of the SAP teama "go-to" person.
The system went live on schedule, and when Blitch conducted a post-mortem, he says, the most consistent reaction was "we thought it would be much worse than it was."
CIOs and consultants stress the idea of a post-mortem, and doing regular assessments on projects. Setting milestones, checking progress and making improvements is also crucial, insists Toyota's Cooper, especially in light of the shorter cycles of projects. But doing this requires a commitment to documentation. "You have to take notes on what works and what doesn't as you go. You can't do it at the end, because by that time everybody's exhausted."
Managing change is a key skill, but planning for change is just as essential. Change is difficult enough without assessing ahead of time who will help and who's going to hinder. But because change is ongoing, so too should be assessment. If CIOs know not only their resources, but where the pitfalls lay, they increase their chances of success.
HOWARD BALDWIN is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in such publications as CIO and Corporate Computing. Comments on this article can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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