Leading the Art of Positive Change Outweighs Its Science

I spent the day with an extremely bright IT professional capable of creating the type of needed change his company is depending on him to produce. Throughout the day he kept proclaiming “I don’t do politics”with equal doses of superiority, ferociousness and judgmental frustration. Perhaps not coincidentally, yesterday I was with a different equally talented IT leader who spent his day encouraging our mutual client to join him in a crusade against paper, chanting “I hate paper” to open and close every session (I’m convinced he tortures a Dwight Schrute voodoo doll each night before going to bed).

Any day now we will start seeing year-end features from all media outlets, and more than one is bound to pay its annual homage to the billions (or is it trillions?) companies waste each year on strategically sound IT initiatives that fail to produce expected returns.  To help get this ball rolling, I’d like to frame the subject through these two different professionals in two different settings trying to solve two different company problems. Especially because their attitudes are quite similar to most highly competent IT consultants and professionals I’ve worked with over the years, and I believe the experts represent the biggest hurdles for getting better universal ROI on technology projects.

I’ve previously debunked certain aspects of the cliched “people hate change” myth in this blog, but when ideas and ensuing transformation is managed by someone who arrogantly campaigns against politics as a critical change component, of course the people effected will resist with real hatred! These resisting masses will enlist managers at all levels because every good business leader recognizes humans are political animals that are best motivated to do the right things when they fully buy in-clinically as well as emotionally.  Equally, when a project leader sets his or her sights on the wrong objective, employees will quickly reject the direction and see it as a threat to their collective and individual security.

Eliminating paper is nota widely applicable business objective is, but creating greater cost efficiencies certainly is.  Every successful IT project I’ve ever been party to ultimately does eliminate paper, but as a by-product not as the goal.  Even if this consultant didn’t mean it literally, it was received that way by the vast majority of the people he met with (I know, I had to undo the damage).  Nobody will get others to follow them if the audience believes the person in charge is attacking the wrong problem.

By way of a contrast, I will cite another IT leader that will also dominate the annual year in review features.  Of course, I’m talking about Apple, but not from the product design or consumer market standpoint.  Look around and you will see Apple products becoming a bigger part of the corporate landscape despite the aversion almost all CIO’s, CTO’s and their staffs have to bringing Apple into the workplace.  Apple’s successful penetration of the corporate market is due to their going over the heads of the IT experts, appealing directly to users who ultimately insist on iPads for sales presentations, iPhones for marketing campaigns and the like.  Apple certainly seems to understand that the science of changing minds starts with the art of owning hearts and guts.  That’s why they are a great corporation, not merely a great technology company.

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