CIO Connect: Are you capable of change?

Almost three quarters of UK IT leaders reported their organisation currently lacked sufficient skills to drive through change management programmes successfully, according to an authoritiative membership survey by CIO Connect.

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In a recent CIO Connect survey of 135 senior IT leaders from FTSE 250 companies and public sector organisations, 73% of respondents said they believed existing change programmes were being “impeded or hindered in some way by a lack of necessary skills”.

One survey respondent commented: “Given the historical evidence of the last 20 years or so, I find it amazing that organisations continue to underestimate or even overlook the need for active change management alongside any major IT and/or business programme.”

In my experience organisations are increasingly looking to IT to be the engineer and architect of change.

A variety of skills are required to drive this type of programme and usually it is assumed that IT leaders are able to take the lead. However, the secret of successful change leadership is more to do with empathy and emotional intelligence than any other management skill.

So, in many ways, it is unsurprising that IT leaders feel they are failing in heading change management projects as the skills they increasingly need have never been strong elements in the make-up of the IT department’s DNA.

It was however encouraging to read that the research revealed a determination among CIOs and their senior leadership teams to tackle the situation by means of more effective change leadership and increased levels of management and staff training

Six out of ten respondents said they had already introduced new leadership in the past 12 months to help an existing change initiative move forward. And more than half (51%) said they were planning to invest in additional training over the coming year to ensure their organisations had the skills needed “to lead and/or participate fully” in future change management programmes. (By contrast, less than 4% of respondents said they were planning to reduce levels of training.)

The survey also asked IT leaders to rate their organisations’ capability levels when it came to tackling a number of specific change management challenges. Respondents cited “overcoming the restrictions of any silo-based business process” as their most problematic area, with 50% rating their capability level at the low end of the scale.

The next thorniest issues were “winning over sceptics by selling the benefits of a proposed change” (with 40% citing a low level of capability) and “communicating the nature of project changes to stakeholders” (31%). However, most IT leaders felt they were fairly capable when it came to estimating and analysing the impact and requirements of change programmes, as well as at identifying the resources and skills needed to drive these initiatives forward.

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