A parable of business change: Turning prey into predators

Every part of IT is optimized for the company you support right now. Change, however, is complicated

The difference between next-gen and last-gen IT is that last-gen IT was satisfied when it delivered technology that "satisfied requirements" and met the specifications. Next-gen IT is deeply embedded in making business change happen.

This means everyone in IT needs some level of competence in business change management methodologies. Business analysts, in particular, must have black belts in it -- or they would if anyone was silly enough to award them.

[ Find out the 10 business skills every IT pro must master, beware the 9 warning signs of bad IT architecture, and steer clear of the 12 "best practices" IT should avoid at all costs. | For more of Bob Lewis' continuing IT management wisdom, check out his Advice Line newsletter. ]

Here's one place to start: As mentioned last week, organizations would resist change even if every single employee in the organization, from janitor up through the CEO and board of directors, actively embraced it. To understand why, take a lesson from one of my more intriguing consulting engagements: a project I undertook for the SWTD (Society of White-Tailed Deer).

SWTD1.jpg
We're tired of being prey "It was bad enough when it was just wolves and coyotes hunting us," the SWTD president told me. "Then we had hunters, which was OK when they tracked us, because that was a battle of wits. But now they use deer stands -- they wear deer musk and put food on the ground.

"It was bad enough when it was just wolves and coyotes hunting us," the SWTD president told me. "Then we had hunters, which was OK when they tracked us, because that was a battle of wits. But now they use deer stands -- they wear deer musk and put food on the ground.

"We're tired of it," she said angrily. "It's our turn to be predators. We want to hunt squirrels."

"That's what you want me to do?" I asked. "Turn you into predators?"

"You're the only management consultant we could find who used to be an evolutionary biologist," she answered. "It's you or nobody."

"But squirrels?"

"Seems like they'd be safe to hunt, and besides, they're annoying critters, don't you think?"

As a consultant, I'm not in business to argue or to say no, so ...

The solution: It's all in the teeth

Following extensive interviewing and a review of the literature, "Predators need biting teeth," I explained. "I'm going to partner with a company that specializes in gene splicing to give you some."

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We did so, and the outcome was disappointing -- the deer weren't catching any squirrels, so they complained that their new orthodonture did them no good. This led to an uncomfortable meeting with my project sponsor.

"My members aren't happy," she told me, "and when they're unhappy, I'm unhappy. They can't catch squirrels, and with their new teeth it's harder to chew grass, pine needles, and corn kernels."

"This happens a lot with change," I told her. "It isn't only deer. People naturally resist change, too. Once we get past the change resistance, everything should be fine."

I handed out copies of my book, "Who Moved My Squirrel," to every member of the SWTD (turning it into an overnight best-seller in the process). Even with this, the SWTD's squirrel-catching-per-capita metric refused to budge.

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