After exiting your annual executive planning session, the expectations for your IT team are clear. The organization needs to be more competitive and digitization projects top everyone’s wish list. From marketing and sales to delivery and customer service, your department heads are clamoring for the latest in digital tools to meet increasing customer demands. Your CEO was clear: either your company adapts and excels in the new digital era or it falls behind its competitors and loses ground.
It was also clear that they are looking to the IT team to bring solutions to them. From your perspective this is a great opportunity for IT to move away from being a support function to one that drives business strategy and growth. What you are not sure of is your team’s readiness and ability to change.
You’re confident of their abilities. They are smart, and they work hard. You’re just not sure how they will react to a fundamental change in their roles. During your meeting you realized you will need to pass more responsibilities onto your team. They cannot waste valuable time on "keeping the lights on" tasks anymore but you’re unsure how they will feel about letting go of those responsibilities. Too many IT professionals feel that there is a lot of job security when an organization expects them to keep the lights on. It isn’t optional. They, however, might not view strategic digitization projects as fundamental to the organization, and it might even seem to them that these are flavor of the week ideas from non-technical leaders.
As the IT leader it is your responsibility to help your team understand change and guide them through it. Below is a summary of the four key steps a leader should take as he tries to lead his team through change, according to McKinsey.
- Role Modeling. Leaders should model the change they are asking of their reports. As an IT leader who is moving his team away from keeping the lights on it is important your team sees that you are focused on strategic projects and supporting other departments in meeting their digital goals. Make your activities in this area highly visible to your team.
- Developing skills and talents. Invest in training your team on the skills they need to fulfill new requirements. Knowing you are allocating time and money to help them meet new demands will reinforce your support of your team and your commitment to change.
- Fostering understanding and conviction. During a change initiative, a leader must over-communicate. Explain the “why” of change and explain it over and over again. Messages must be heard at least seven times before they are understood and internalized.
- Reinforce with formal mechanisms. Make sure that your team and department structure support the changes you are making. Freeing up your staff’s time to work on strategic digital projects and assigning “keeping the lights on” tasks to outside partners will show your team you’re serious about moving the department in a new direction.
Change is hard and necessary. As an IT leader the more you support your team as they move towards becoming strategy and growth contributors, the more successful you and your organization will be.