IT management, leadership and change (HR Manager's Bookshelf)

Strategic Information Management • IT Leadership Alchemy • Breakthrough IT Change Management

The information technology work environment — both the IT department itself and the diffused presence of IT in most work settings and jobs — presents specific challenges. Whether in a high-tech company where computer services are the main focus of the business, or the growing IT environment in any kind of business organization, HR professionals may welcome these recent books on the tough realities of IT work culture, leadership and performance improvement.

Strategic Information Management serves as a primer for anyone new to the IT world, or anyone wanting a deeper understanding of what makes it tick. It includes general systems management issues, the elements of an effective IT function and how it fits with the rest of the organization.

IT leaders — and the HR advisors who support them — will welcome IT Leadership Alchemy, a hands-on guidebook that targets the human and business skills needed in the IT setting. It deals with teamwork, communication, project management and other key aspects of fulfilling a technical leadership role.

Getting enduring results is the objective of Breakthrough IT Change Management. This book offers practical approaches, tools and pointers for implementing new technologies and e-business strategies.

Strategic Information Management

Ed. by Robert Galliers and Dorothy Leidner
625 pages, Elsevier
(3rd ed., 2003)
ISBN 0-7506-5619-0
(800) 545-2522

The HR professional new to the IT work environment may find it overwhelming. How can I better understand IT and how it fits with the rest of the organization? My role is to help the IT function, but I don’t know where to start. IT veterans may also have questions. Where is the field headed? How does the company’s IT strategy tie in with its business strategy? What is the connection between IT and some of HR’s primary areas of concern, including organization design, culture, learning and performance?

This book is a compilation of chapters written by leading academics and consultants, intended for MBA students, but very useful for business practitioners.

Early sections trace the emergence of IT as a strategic component of the business. Several chapters are devoted to information systems planning. Another section addresses the relationship between information systems and business strategy.

HR leaders may be especially interested in the following topics:

•the IT-organizational design relationship;

•IT and organizational decision-making;

•information systems and organizational learning;

•IT and customer service; and

•IT and organizational performance.

A chapter on “change agentry — the next information systems frontier” contrasts the traditional IS model of change with newer facilitator and advocate models. A chapter on organizational culture surveys the issues involved in integrating knowledge management systems and behaviours across organizations.

IT Leadership Alchemy

By Lou Russell and Jeff Feldman
248 pages, Prentice Hall PTR (2003)
ISBN 0-13-009403-X
(416) 925-0068, (800) 567-3800

“Unfortunately, business people do not want to be around IT people (nerds). IT people tend to be weaker at people skills, so this reinforcing cycle of miscommunication and avoidance spawns insufficient technology solutions that prevent the business from competing. The cycle of miscommunication, blame and frustration is omnipresent in most IT organizations today.

“IT organizations are over-equipped to deal with the technical issues but ill-equipped to deal with the people issues. IT must exhibit strong leadership within its own troops. Unfortunately, many of the people who could play this role were promoted because of their technical, not their people, skills. The fallout is everywhere you look.”

The authors begin with this motivation to help IT leaders transform themselves into more effective, well-rounded leaders. Key foundations are leader self-alignment (values, purpose, vision) and resiliency (including “rules for navigating permanent white water”).

Short readings alternate with checklists, exercises and tools designed to guide self-assessment and improvement in areas such as:

•interpersonal and team skills (exploring trust, managing conflict, tuning into differences);

•communication skills and coaching;

•customer orientation;

•strategic business acumen;

•project leadership (including project management basics); and

•the journey to change (understanding human and organizational processes, leading change).

Every chapter concludes with an activity to identify lessons learned and action steps. The book ends with a chapter dedicated to developing a personal plan of action.

Readers will find realistic advice on the journey: “A leader must be willing to let go of the comfortable familiarity of certain behavioural ways and move into the unknown of the neutral zone. Navigating this transitional space is difficult for everyone. As we have been coached through past transitions, we’ve noticed that the immediate result is a feeling of fear and chaos — but this is part of getting to the reward.”

Breakthrough IT Change Management

By Bennet Lientz and Kathryn Rea
311 pages,
Elsevier (2004)
ISBN 0-7506-7686-8
(800) 545-2522

Based on their experience with numerous change processes, the authors highlight shortcomings they see in other change management approaches: over-dependence on jargon, too much complexity, insufficient attention on keeping change in place once introduced, and too much emphasis on a top-down, management-driven approach.

Their aim is to help readers gain support for change from employees and managers alike, implement measurements for the change in people’s work and for the change process itself, and use change management to reinforce collaboration and teamwork.

The book is centred on fundamental themes:

•grassroot participation to build crucial support for sustained changes;

•upper-level management support from the start and realistic, limited management involvement throughout the process;

•broad collaboration beyond the change leader, project team and selected stakeholders;

•implementation in planned waves, allowing for rest and preparation;

•measurement of change management activities to assess what’s working;

•an organized, flexible strategy for planning and implementation;

•recognition of the political realities and how they impinge on the change effort; and

•cultural sensitivity toward the people, the organization and the specific units or departments.

Eight dimensions of change are recognized, including management (how work is directed); the work itself (scope); procedures (how work is done); systems and technology; staffing and organization; policies (how work is governed); facilities, location and infrastructure; and timing (when work is done).

Specific chapters outline issues and steps involved in implementing new technology and systems, and change management related to e-business strategy and transition.

With examples, detailed templates and frameworks, checklists and scorecards, the book takes the reader through a step-by-step change management method which involves:

•developing change goals and strategy;

•preparing the change management framework;

•determining focal points for change (processes, work, organization);

•collecting information on the way work is done today;

•defining long-term solutions and quick hits; and

•planning for implementation and beyond.

Implementing is laid out in detail, beginning with quick hits to lay the groundwork, carrying out the major change agenda, ongoing measurement of results, generating enthusiasm and support, and steps to prevent deterioration and to expand the change effort.

The final section of the book offers insights and lessons on common change management issues:

•personnel issues (including reluctance to get involved, high turnover and resistance);

•team issues (friction, over-reliance on certain individuals, loss of a team member or leader);

•management issues (excessive expectations, meddling, loss of interest, lack of follow-through on decisions); and

•change effort issues (slow start, too much emphasis on quick hits, slow issue resolution, difficulty in prioritizing change opportunities).

While IT issues and changes are a key part of much of the change going on in business today, this book offers value in non-IT change planning and implementation as well. The tone is pragmatic, and while a cover-to-cover reading would serve as a solid change management education, it’s also a prime candidate for the OD, HR, IT or general manager’s bookshelf for ready reference in tackling specific change situations.

Ray Brillinger is a certified management consultant who works with clients on organizational change, HR strategy and performance improvement. He can be reached at (905) 547-8193 or [email protected].

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