Kiwis Aren't Really Geared Up To Change Management And It Will Kill Your "2.0" Project

Change Management is a bit of a black art here in New Zealand and seems to be muddled through with varying levels of success which tend, unfortunately, to be towards the "it didn't really work" end.

Why is this, a combination of these and probably many others:
  • Kiwis are famous for using the number 8 wire for everything
  • Kiwis are famous for just getting on with it
  • Most Kiwis operate in a small environment and don't need to have a formalised Change Management approach
And there's nothing wrong with the above (Kiwis really do just get things done) ... except when it doesn't work which in my experience is quite a lot of times when it comes to implementing "2.0".

There is one other major issue with the way a lot of Kiwi companies approach "2.0" implementations that I have a lot of issues with - running it as an IT led project. If this is you then read this and weep:
"Democratising decision-making (crowd sourcing), creating openness and transparency is a big step for large organisations in particular. For most of them, this is still a step too far."

Leon Benjamin, author and web 2.0 practitioner

If you're an IT bod at any level of an organisation you will wave a wee white flag and run away before having to face solving that sort of problem. And so you should as it's not one that software and hardware can solve on their own, you need a much more rounded business team!

But Kiwis, do not fret as you are not alone as this excellent report from Louise Druce, Why change management is critical to Web 2.0 success (June 2008) points out many a failed approach from US based organisations:
But rolling out social software in an organisation isn’t akin to buying another version of Oracle. There is a certain degree of organisational readiness that needs to be achieved in order to successfully deploy and absorb the changes associated with implementing social software. And the change management necessary to precede such a Web 2.0 strategy has caught many businesses unaware.

Statistics bear this out. When executives who had implemented Web 2.0 technologies were asked by the McKinsey survey what they wished they had done better, 42% said they would have strengthened their internal capabilities.

The report goes on to echo a lot of points I try and make with clients as I take away the "shiny new toy" view of 2.0 and put a huge dose of reality in its place:
  • People suddenly worry about being more transparent; anybody can talk to anybody. And that is a really big problem for some people high up in some organisations
  • ... examine their current environment to establish how collaborative it is
  • Web 2.0 will demand some very specific skill sets in an organisation that didn’t exist before ... Such roles could include community managers; community liaison teams ...; ... a 'chief connectivity officer
  • Blogging is very dependent on being good at writing
  • some of the most significant change management processes – certainly in terms of culture – actually need to occur at the most senior levels
Without a good sound experience in Change Management the all too often introduction of "Web 2.0" into New Zealand companies is leading to a disenchanted experience for the staff and disheartened implementors.

But now we know, we can get better ... and Kiwis are very good at adapting to changing environments!


Further reading on MiramarMike.co.nz:

Comments

  1. I don't know how different NZ is in this respect Mike, but it seems to me that organisations have to really want to change - from the top to the bottom. New systems can be a catalyst to help but the environment needs to be conducive - the leaders need to be committed, staff need to see the benefits and feel respected - to be drivers in their own ways. Web 2.0 is a social phenomenon - accelerated by deep human needs for participation and self expression - should be easy to harness if an organisation has the overall cultural maturity and structure to support it. Interesting aye.

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  2. Great post, i thoroughly enjoyed it.

    I think the Number 8 wire mentality is outdated.

    We need to do more than make do, we need to make do on less and better than the whole world. Number 8 wire mentality is not whats going to drive our economy into the future.

    As you say Change Management is key to this, the problem inherent in organisations I work with is the fear of the unknown. Really the risks of not changing are worse than the risk of changing. That's how I sell them on utilising 2.0 technologies / frameworks to rework how they think about their business.

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  3. Mike, I take issue with the semantics of change management. It's not possible to manage change, that's an oxymoron. Being agents of change, and leading change are things that come from the top and are supported by the base.

    The 2.0 mentality isn't software lead, you're right, it's an attitudinal turning point that's been made more apparent to those in our ivory towers by tools on the web. The shift in behaviour and the begrudging acceptance of how things were, and how we no longer need to put up with poor service, faulty products, or offerings that are off target though that's being lead by the consumer.

    Businesses aren't managing change, they're reacting to the changes the consumer is making. The web 2.0 tools have made leading companies more aware of the volume of noise out there. The consumer has always been unhappy with the offering, it's just now it's easier to share that viewpoint, and easier for businesses to hear it and then react to it.

    Some businesses have always been good at moving with the flow, that's a kiwi thing. Ingenuity is a part of the way things are done. But shifting thought in businesses that are bigger than the optimal limit of 150 is always going to be more difficult than in nimbler and more streamlined smaller businesses

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  4. Mike, In our organisation (and many clients) the cynicism is often with change management as a stand-alone discipline. As a supplemental skill it's awesome but on its own its just too conceptual for NZ SMEs.

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  5. Why not create an environment where everyone loves to come to work, loves necessary change and where no distrust exists up and down the chain? Don't most changes fail because they are attempted in a top-down command and control driven company where distrust and disrespect abounds?

    If employees are treated like royalty, treated as though they are very valuable, greatly respected employees, they will embrace necessary change. They will because in this environment they will unleash their full potential of creativity, innovation, productivity, motivation and commitment on their work and your company will literally blow away the competition and adopt change easily.

    To gain some understanding of the right and wrong ways achieve this state of management nirvana, please google and read the article "Leaderhip, Good or Bad" or go to
    http://www.bensimonton.com/Leadership,%20Good%20or%20Bad.htm

    Best regards, Ben Simonton
    Author "Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed"

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