Prof. Teresa Rose of the University of Waterloo discusses the drivers and obstacles to this phenomenon, and the role that IT professionals can play in supporting change-management programs within their companies in this interview with IT World Canada’s online editor, Joaquim P. Menezes. Includes video of the interview.

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Watch video of interview with Teresa Rose

Length: 8.18 minutes. Type of file: Windows Media Video

Hi, I’m Joaquim Menezes Web Editor of IT World Canada. My guest on this interview is Teresa Rose, a professor with the Department of Management Sciences at the University of Waterloo. Professor Rose teaches courses on organizational theory and strategy and organizational change at the University. She has also done extensive research on the subject of organizational change in global advisory firms. In this interview we’ll draw on Professor Rose’s expertise and long experience to understand organizational change, the drivers and obstacles to this phenomenon– and the role that IT professionals and IT departments can play in supporting change-management programs within their companies.

Professor Rose, in the past three to five years, we’ve seen big enterprises in every sector radically restructure the way they do business. What in your view are some of the key drivers of this trend?

One of them, of course, is the rapid changes in technology. Those changes allow for new products and services at an increased rate. We have technological advances that allow us connectivity that we haven’t had before at an instantaneous rate. Globalization has also been a huge factor, impacting organizations in a way that they’ve really had to respond with really large changes.

We’ve had an increase in diversity in just about every population in the world, which creates significant product service opportunities.

Last year, in an IBM survey of 765 CEOs, more than 80 per cent admitted their organizations haven’t been very successful at managing change in the past. Why is change management so difficult?

There are many different levels at which we can look at why change management is so difficult. We can look at the individual level – and look at just…our human nature that we don’t like to change. We have an inclination towards security and stability – so each and every one of us is resistant to change at some level. As a group of individuals we have a very real need for a sense of belonging, and once we’ve gained that sense of belonging, we don’t want change to that.

And some of the substantive changes that organizations are undertaking – rearrangement, and groupings and departments – on an ongoing basis is causing a fair amount of stress to the individual person and to groups. I think also if we look at change management at an organizational level, when an organization is successful, success breeds the feeling that there is no need for change. So an organization tends to stay entrenched in what has worked.

One commentator describes change management as “a business process that historically has been long on good intentions and short on execution.” Would you agree with this assessment?

There are many good intentions for change [though] I wouldn’t agree that all changes have good intentions.

The whole change-management process is so complex, and there is oftentimes a miscommunication or lack of communication of the various changes going on in the different departments, such that we get a situation where a large-scale change driven from the top is actually in contradiction with a number of changes that may be occurring in the various departments.

In recent CIO Connect survey in the U.K., 73 per cent of those polled said change management programs in their organizations were being impeded by a lack of skills among their own IT department managers. Do you believe that in Canada too, skills gaps in IT departments are hampering firms’ change management programs?

I am doubtful that it is any lack of technological skill that they would require. Generally speaking, I just do not believe that IT managers would not have the technical skills they need to support the various changes in the organization.

They may be gaps in skill or experience in terms of the social aspects of change, the strategic aspects of change – just the managerial understanding of what the change process requires. With the involvement at the strategic level I believe IT managers could envision how IT could more support a change process [and] they could be involved in identifying all aspects of that change process.

Today, “collaboration” has almost become a buzzword. Why is collaboration so important to the success of a change-management program?

There is a need to create departments or break into departments that can handle all those complex and changing pressures. And so we get the development or the evolution of an increasing number of departments – such as legal departments, PR departments, customer service departments and so on in order to reduce the complexity – to somehow gain control of the uncertainty within the environment.

And what this requires is a way of integrating. Collaboration has become a key word that we use…we need to collaborate more. Now the collaboration can be internal – so the collaboration is required among departments. We also have collaboration externally, though. The requirement for organizations to – perhaps – collaborate with suppliers, with the government.

Professor, could you cite an example of how collaboration plays out – of how the expertise and skills of multiple persons and groups can be brought together to achieve a common purpose?

An example that I could speak to is within the healthcare sector. For children that are suffering from a number of disabilities – oftentimes they may be a combination of physical-mental disabilities – there’s a requirement of multiple practitioners.

An organization was formed that brought these various players together to strategically define how families and children could be served in a better way.

There was a lot of time and resources put into the envisioning of what this organization – this collaborative organization – would do. There were ongoing meetings, and commitment of both financial as well as time resources of the various contributors. What we’ve come up with is an organization that has transformed the way that children and their families get adequate care.

Professor Rose it was a pleasure having you on the program, thank you for sharing your ideas and insights with us.

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