Be Flexible - GumbyResistance can be good or bad.  For example, resistance-based exercises can aid in becoming more physically fit. Informed resistance  to proposed change within your organization may signal that additional considerations are needed to possibly modify the proposal to overcome potential issues or perhaps present a stronger result.  On the other hand, resistance can be problematic when it results from closed-mindedness.

What causes resistance within IT…and how can it be overcome?

Too often the corporate IT department is perceived by those they serve as being resistant…and this resistance is definitely not seen as a good thing.  But what causes it…and how can it be overcome?

The IT profession is based upon logic.  It’s all just 1’s and 0’s, right?  Definitive rules and order are required for integration and operability.  The profession attracts people that are very logical.  They are problem-solvers whose analytical minds look for patterns to help resolve errors and detect root causes.  IT professionals often have a tendency to solve problems in their heads within the context of what they know — even as you are still in the process of explaining the issue.  At times this tendency causes some to prematurely jump to an incorrect conclusion without hearing the entire scenario.

The information technology field requires order and structure.  In this sense, disruptions to the order and structure can result in angst, concern, and perhaps even chaos with regard to the technology they support.

The penchant then for IT professionals to be somewhat resistant to change is understandable.  However, this same inclination to have everything fit into a preexisting box can produce a rigidity impeding the advance of the business.

To achieve success today and in the future will require companies to become increasingly quicker and more nimble.  This necessitates corporate IT to become progressively more flexible.


How can IT achieve the flexibility needed in order to propel their company forward?

How then can IT – whose very profession is built upon structure – achieve the flexibility needed in order to propel their company forward?  It’s not about the technology… it’s about the people.  Here are some practical suggestions:

  • Understand the underlying business challenge.  In many companies today, IT is left on the outside and brought in only when someone else thinks it might be a good idea.  It is not possible for IT to attain and drive the needed business flexibility in that type of environment.  This fundamental transformation goes far beyond simply telling IT to become more flexible.  It requires IT to become more involved in understanding the business and contributing to its direction rather than simply taking orders.  Such business understanding does not come from a one-time training course.  Instead it requires that you begin to live and breathe the same air as the rest of the company.  Get involved in what they are doing.  Sit with those who are performing various business functions and watch them do their jobs.  Talk with them about their frustrations and challenges.
  • Establish a minimalist approach to architecture.  Standards and controls are imperative for IT efficiency, integration, and stability.  However, many IT departments continue to use standards, controls, and procedures that originated years ago and prohibit newer approaches.  While this admittedly helps stability within the environment, it can also limit the speed and flexibility attainable through continuing advances.  Establishment of a minimalist approach absolutely does not mean exposing the company to security issues, integration concerns, and ongoing service problems.  It does mean embracing an architecture that is flexible, adaptable, and continually reviewed/renewed.  In addition, it should be stressed that this should be communicated to the rest of the company so that all understand its importance.  This communication should also address options available along with associated risks.
  • Lose the “not-invented-here” malady.  Obviously an IT professional must exert control over technology in order to accomplish the objective.  However, IT departments must evolve from acting as the controller, the protector, the gatekeeper of all technology for the company.  They must transform into the enabler, the driver, the accelerator of business.  As such, they must shed their predominant ‘builder’ role to become more consultants/advisors helping the rest of the business find and blend together solutions predominately originating outside the company.
  • Stay alert to the outside world.  The company’s demand for IT services is high.  It is likely that even if all projects on the current backlog list were to magically be completed today, the list would quickly be refilled with new projects.  It is easy for IT professionals to be caught up in rushing from one project to the next.  However, it is becoming more and more important for IT to stay abreast of technology developments both inside and outside the specific industry in which their company operates.  It is no longer enough to attend a conference once or twice a year nor to simply subscribe to one or two technical journals.
  • Let loose IT’s innovative genius.  It is extremely important that you get your staff on board with this new mindset.  Help them to understand the importance of overcoming rigidity and embracing flexibility.  Ensure they see the whole picture around the needed IT transformation – including the need to become demand-driven rather than supply-driven.  Help them see where they will fit in this brave new world.  Then enlist their help in identifying ways to help improve IT’s flexibility.  You will likely be very surprised at the creative ideas they generate.
  • Become a student of leadership and organizational change.  Too many strategies, culture changes, and even IT projects fail because of leadership issues in helping people to embrace and maintain organizational change.  Realize that change is a constant, and companies that excel at change will likely excel in the marketplace.  You can make the difference.  Spend time educating yourself on change leadership and how to get people on board.

No one is claiming that this change will be easy… but maintaining status quo is definitely not an option in order to help your company achieve the speed and flexibility needed for success.

What other ideas do you have that might help corporate IT overcome resistance/rigidity and become appreciated for its flexibility?

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