Monday, February 1, 2010

Implementing Change Through The Proper Application of Technology

I was recently asked to complete an email based interview for a friend of mine who is studying for her Masters. Her assignment was to interview an Agent of Change. I was honored when she asked but also perplexed. I had never thought of myself in that light before. As it turns out, I was very pleased with the results of this extremely introspective endeavor. I have decided to share it with the world in the hopes that someone will find a way to refine it and use it for the good of all mankind (or more likely... to complete some project at work).

How have/do you effect change?
I have a bit of white knight complex. I have a grand passion for working with struggling departments or companies to find creative solutions through the proper application of technology. It is universally true that individuals and organizations alike severely underutilize and underestimate the technology they already have access to. It is nearly as common that they also misjudge the root of their challenges. My role is to leverage my skills and talents to help people identify the true root of a problem and engineer an apt system based on proven principles.

What are your strategies?
The key to any successful endeavor in my field is to first focus on building solid relationships with the key stakeholders in order to become a trusted advisor. It is common for people to withhold information about how or why they do things a certain way. I must achieve honest trust with everyone involved to gain the insight necessary to understand the root cause of any issue. This relationship with the core influencers is also paramount to deploying a solution that is accepted by the entire organization.

Every member of a team either works with me or against me. There is no such thing as neutral. A neutral stance by a key stakeholder is nearly always perceived as a negative attitude by those in their sphere of influence. It is not necessary to befriend or impress everyone. Instead I must focus on extracting confidence from those who are most influential.

What is the one change(s) you are most proud of?
Rockhurst High School is an institution that has existed for over 90 years.

I worked with Rockhurst High School, first as an employee, then as a consultant over a period of three and a half years. In that time my team was able to affect a fundamental change to their culture of technology. We were able to alter the approach to funding technology from a continuous series of unanticipated capital expenditures to a predicable operating budget. When I arrived at the school technology was perceived as a never ending series of unnecessary and unwanted changes that were rejected by nearly everyone. To this day technology is embraced by every educational discipline within the institution primarily due to the implementation strategy of pilot programs. Finally, it was the new focus on learning to use their tools to a fuller extent that ended the cycle of constant change and dramatically increased the effectiveness of new implementations. I am proud to say, I was reassured as recently as yesterday that these changes have remained the standard within the walls of that great institution.

Do you have a philosophy/framework for how you approach change?
  • Become a trusted advisor by building honest relationships
  • In order to solve a problem with technology you must first under the emotional need of those involved
  • Focus on trying to use existing resources whenever possible
  • Create champions who drive the change from within their own sphere of influence
    - My favorite way to do this is through focused pilot programs or test groups
  • Set realistic expectations (under promise and over deliver)
  • Make it fun and exciting to the recipients no matter how dull the project or goal may be
  • Educate early and often
    - Change is an ongoing endeavor that is tolerated most and feared least when it is thoroughly understood
    - Not just technical education. Value, reasoning, purpose and vision must be conveyed assiduously.

What resource(s) (news sites, webtool, conferences, etc.) do you find most valuable in keeping up?
Google - I am a habitual researcher so Google Search is indispensable. Google is also my communications platform which provides my email, text messaging, instant messaging, voice mail, call routing, call logging and even my cell phone operating system. Google has provided the core technologies for most of my recent major and minor projects. Their cloud based technologies offer diversity, flexibility, functionality, affordability and rapid deployment.

What step(s) do you recommend to start the "change process"?
  • Develop a passion. Whether you are driven by a need or by a desire to help others you must be driven.
  • Identify and define a specific need that can be met then relentlessly pursue a solution.
  • Help others see the need and seek guidance from as many people as possible but refuse to be detoured.
  1. Identify a focused need
  2. Strengthen relationships
  3. Seek out root causes
  4. Research possible solutions
  5. Engage champions
  6. Plan
  7. Execute
  8. Educate
  9. Evaluate/Test
  10. Repeat (Never Quit)

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