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Is Organizational Change a Reason to Stop or Accelerate Your IT Strategic Planning?

Posted by Matt Ipri on 10/26/17 1:48 PM

Organizational change happens WAY more often than you think at large companies or agencies.

By “organizational change”, I mean anything from employee turnover, to a promotion, or even to a full re-organization. The change itself may only be to one person or one team, but the ramifications are ALWAYS felt all around the organization.


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And more often than not, do you know what pays the price? Ongoing innovation and improvement.

Yes, org change of any kind always seems to put a damper on any kind of innovation or improvement efforts that are underway. Whether shut down explicitly by a new leader, or simply left behind in the shuffle of new roles and changed priorities, innovation efforts can disappear faster than free pizza in the lunchroom.

One type of innovation effort that we most often see shut down is IT Strategic Planning activities. New leaders (or just new “owners”) very often want to put their own “stamp” on key activities in an organization, and planning and direction setting generally meets that “key” criteria. But unfortunately, rather than simply engaging in the ongoing planning effort and improving it, what generally happens is that new leaders put planning efforts on hold until they “get their house in order”.

Now, I would be dumb and naïve to disagree with that being a rational approach. As a leader, you certainly want to get your arms around the current state, survey the scene, and get processes straight before you take on any massive planning effort or change. But while it’s certainly a “rational” approach, is it the RIGHT approach? From our experience, I would argue that NO, it is not the right way to handle planning after an organizational change of ANY size. 

3 Ways to Avoid Letting Organizational Change Push Strategic Planning to the Back Burner

1. Don’t just introduce change for the sake of change

From working with customers and organizations of ALL sizes over the last few decades, we’ve seen an important constant. The ONLY way process improvement and re-focusing truly takes hold is if it does in direct support of the goals and direction of the organization.

Quality change, and not just change for change sake, needs to be done with the strategy of the organization in mind. And done to push it forward.

Quality change, and not just change for change sake, needs to be done with the strategy of the organization in mind. And done to push it forward. In other words, any work to “get the house in order” must be strategically aligned to where the business wants to go. Otherwise, how, exactly, are you getting anything in order?

2. Make sure the plan STARTS with the strategy

New leaders, and especially the process owners who are constant ACROSS leadership changes, should be using strategic planning and strategy execution methods to ensure they’re getting the house in the RIGHT order.

Creating a set of data on your strategy and objectively measuring your activities against it makes identifying the most valuable activities in the portfolio and the biggest opportunities for cost and resource saving easy. Without aligning with strategy and starting with planning, new leaders are simply chasing hunches and stereotyping the work that’s going on as “valuable” or “waste”.

3. Linking to strategy ensures better communication and buy-in

After a big (or small) organizational change, it is very common for the employees and team members who have been constant to feel skeptical or nervous about what the change will mean to them or their work. It’s the selfish nature in all of us about our own position. And when new change is then introduced, it can often be greeted with the same skepticism, especially when the employee feels it’s just the “new guy’s opinion”.

Linking ALL changes to the strategy of the business gives a much better shot of fast buy-in than only leading with the leader’s gut. If an employee sees rational changes are being made to priorities, work order, investment levels, and assignments, and that they’re all based on the strategy, they’ll much more likely to feel at ease with why changes are being made. 

Do You Choose the “Rational” or the “Right” Plan?

So, I return to my initial question. While it may certainly be “rational” to ditch the planning efforts for another time, is it the RIGHT thing to do for your organization?

 No.

Our experience says it’s not and you will only be extending the inefficient efforts of the organization that led to the big organizational change in the first place. A new leader or a new role should start by analyzing the work against the business strategy and figuring out what the smartest use of their resources really SHOULD be. And THEN get their house in order. The RIGHT order.

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