The late British novelist Arnold Bennett penned, “Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawback and discomfort.” I can only imagine what he’d say now, given society’s incredible pace of change. Despite the drawbacks and discomforts, change is good and a culture that embraces this motto can go further and faster than one that does not.
It’s important for me to qualify my remarks by noting that change for the sake of change is not particularly good. For example, I have seen many IT executives make changes for the sake of their own legacy, or to simply look like they’re doing something important. That type of change usually leads to failure because change requires perseverance, and people have a hard time rallying behind (and staying focused on) an effort with ambiguous benefits. Similarly, efforts that don’t tie directly to business goals and the company’s mission tend to fail because people (especially CEOs) want to work towards something tangible.
Technology makes this problem worse because non-technical people are not nearly as excited about new technology as their IT counterparts. With this chasm comes a need for a different approach to change that focuses on two core principles:
- Respect the fact that users may not care about the new shiny object.
- All change affects work lives, so treat it as if you’re painting their living room – and tread carefully.
To handle the first situation, emphasize the business benefit of the change, not the coolness factor. Remember, they don’t care about cool; they’re wondering how to do their jobs better. The benefits are twofold: first, users will respond to the business context because they care about it (resulting in better adoption). Second, you get to be certain you actually solved a problem users are having.