All IT organizations test. Some test software before it’s put into production. The rest test it by putting it into production.
Which brings us to organizational change management (OCM), something else all organizations do, but only some do prior to deployment.
There is, you’ll recall, no such thing as an IT project, a drum I’ll continue to beat up to and beyond the anticipated publication date of There’s No Such Thing as an IT Project sometime in September of this year.
Which brings us to a self-evident difference between testing, aka software quality assurance (SQA), and OCM: SQA is about the software; OCM is about the business change that needs the new software.
As we (Dave Kaiser and I) point out in the upcoming book, organizational changes mostly fall into three major buckets: process, user experience, and decision-making. Process change illustrates the SQA parallel well.
Probably the most common process change goal is cost reduction, and more specifically reducing the incremental cost of processing one more unit.
As a practical matter, cost reduction usually means layoffs, especially in companies that aren’t rapidly growing. For those that are growing rapidly it means employees involved in the process will have to handle their share of item processing more quickly.
In a word, employees will have to increase their productivity.
Some unenlightened managers still think the famous I Love Lucy chocolate factory episode illustrates the right way to accomplish this increase. But for the most part even the least sophisticated management understands that doing things the exact same way only faster rapidly reaches the point of diminishing returns.
Serious process change generally results in different, and probably fewer distinct tasks in the process flow, performed by fewer employees because there are fewer tasks and those that remain will be more highly automated.
Which brings us back to OCM and when it happens in the deployment sequence.
Managers don’t need a whole lot of OCM know-how to understand the need to re-train employees. But many still blow it, teaching employees how to operate the new software: Click here and this happens; click there and that happens.
Training shouldn’t be about how to operate software at all. It should be about how employees should do their changed jobs using the new software.
But training is just the starting point. What’s often also lost in translation are all the other organizational changes employees have to adjust to at the same time. Three among many:
> Realignments: Employees often find themselves reporting to new managers. This, in turn, usually leads to a severe case of heads-down-ism until employees figure out whether spotlighting problems in the new process flow will be welcomed, or if a new manager’s style is more along the line of messenger-shooting instead.
> Metrics: With new processes often come new process optimization goals, which in turn should mean new process metrics, but too-often doesn’t.
The first rule of business metrics is that you get what you measure — that’s the risk you take. So if a company changes a process without changing its metrics, employees will do their best to continue using the old process, as this is what’s being measured.
> Colleagues: Some work that had been performed by employees who work in a different city, building, floor, or cubicle down the hall, and oh, by the way, these folks used to know each other by name. That work might now be performed by total strangers who live in a different country and time zone, and speak a different native language.
Just adapting to different accents can be challenging enough. Add cultural and time-zone differences to the mix, make everyone involved unknown to each other, and the opportunity for process traffic jams increases, not by increments but by multiples.
No matter what the intended change, for it to be successful all these factors, and others, will have to be addressed.
Change leaders can address them before instituting the change, helping the organization and everyone in it prepare. Or, they can leave it up to everyone to muddle through.
Muddling through does have one advantage: Change leaders can blame anything and everything that goes wrong on change resistance.
Given a choice between effective planning and blaming the victims … well, it’s hardly even a choice, is it?