How to stay on top: The most important success factors for leaders in IT change managementReading time: 6 Minutes
The role of a manager is usually only clearly defined from a technical perspective. However, when it comes to „soft skills“, i.e. one’s own personal as well as social competencies, the picture is quite different. Depending on the industry, corporate culture and individual leadership skills, managers are usually faced with very different requirements and roles. Especially in change management, the skillful but also efficient transition between these leadership roles is particularly important, as requirements can change from one day to the next. At EVOSULT we are confronted with such challenges in management consulting on a daily basis.
Stability and flexibility: Why leaders need to master agile change management
The main problem is the apparent contradiction of the roles a modern executive has to fulfill today. Leaders are expected to be coach and motivator, but also coordinator and innovator at the same time, while keeping an eye on external factors but also on their own team and company. A model that impressively visualizes precisely these competing values and goals is the „Competing Values Framework“ according to Quinn and Rohrbaugh. The framework is divided into the two main dimensions „stability vs. flexibility“ and „internal vs. external focus,“ assigning two leadership roles to each value quadrant.
For example: As a „mentor“, a manager is required to have completely different values such as empathy, openness and helpfulness, while the role of „director“ involves clear objectives, strategies and targets which must be defined and instructed. However, a one-sided focus on only one of these dimensions at a time would be too short-sighted, because this would inevitably entail neglecting the other, opposing components. For the manager, this means that only a flexible approach to the respective roles that is always appropriate to the situation will lead to the goal.
Maintaining continuity in the face of change
It is clear that the demands on one’s own self-image as a manager, which are often perceived as „paradoxical,“ as well as their efficient management in everyday work, are sometimes only possible with great effort. This is because the restructuring of IT organizational structures and the constant changes in internal targets, workflows and legal requirements add to the complexity of the situation. For us as consultants, constant change is part of everyday life, but for the individual employees affected by the restructuring process, it is often associated with great uncertainty and anxiety. The fear of losing status and competencies, but also the job itself, is often unspoken. Here, too, the manager is called upon to act as a mediator, mentor and conflict manager. Because in addition to the technical requirements, today’s modern manager must also master change management on a human level. The challenge for the manager, who finds himself in a sandwich position between communicating and managing his own team and simultaneously being accountable to his own superiors, is thus to create trust and harmony internally and to robustly advocate for his own team’s interests externally. The fact that these roles are often not clearly or completely defined does not make it any easier to reconcile these sometimes conflicting roles.
Success factors in change management
In order to define and understand the roles of a manager in this context, the respective factors that can affect the change process must be known. These include both internal specifications for project management methods and external factors that may not be able to be influenced, or only to a limited extent. Typical external influences are, for example, changes in legislation, new rules for the implementation of existing processes, or political/economic events, such as the Corona pandemic, which can hardly be predicted in this form. Such changes are what make agile project management, the use of agile frameworks, and constant reflection so important. Our following list of the most important success factors cannot be complete and comprehensive within the scope of this article – but we can at least tell you the most important points that we regularly convey as change management consultants.
These factors characterize successful leaders:
1. The right tools
Without the right tools and the knowledge of how to use them, a project cannot succeed. What a craftsman has in his toolbox, managers have in their know-how about change management processes and general process knowledge. Continuous education in the form of training helps to stay up to date. It is also important for managers to know what they do not know or cannot do. Recourse to external experts is the tool of choice here. Let our experts at EVOSULT help you with change management through consulting – because change does not stop at even the most experienced manager. Active and agile change management and project management require specialized expertise by an experienced management consultancy and quick adaptability to new challenges.
2. Define your goals and the structure of the project
As we’ve already established, every endeavor requires the right tools. But you must also have a plan for how and when you will use these tools to achieve your goals. Therefore, creating clearly defined goals and frameworks is one of the most important requirements for success in IT change management. The lack of neatly defined requirements and roles within a team has caused many a project to stumble. So establish a clear requirements profile as early as possible, which, in addition to the defined roles, also includes the individual milestones to be achieved by the respective teams within specific timeframes.
3. The selection of the appropriate framework
Whether Scrum or Kanban – it is important that the tool selected for agile product development and the associated principles are actually „lived“. In both frameworks, the teams organize themselves – a fact that must also be accepted by the organization and corporate culture. Introducing agile methods without management support or adapting an unsuitable framework, on the other hand, is not very effective. For example, the Kanban method may be attractive for your current project for continuous workflow optimization, while the proven Scrum concept with its advantages in predictability and risk control may be attractive for another project. In the meantime, there are even approaches to combine the advantages of both methods in the so-called Scrumban.
4. Get support as a leader
As a manager, you are always integrated into the frame of reference of the corporate culture. However, nothing works without backing from above and support from below. There is no alternative to the leadership culture being linked to the overall corporate culture. Therefore, you must gain the necessary respect and support in order to be able to carry out your tasks efficiently and in a results-oriented manner.
5. Motivate not only others
Self-motivation is an often neglected success factor. While many managers spend their time trying to inspire their own team and the company management, self-motivation is often neglected. Yet it is at least as important in view of the complex challenges and different roles. Recognize that even in management, mistakes happen and leaders are not perfect. You can learn from past mistakes and draw new motivation from the lessons learned, which in turn can be passed on to others. In doing so, you should establish a regular culture of mistakes that does not punish failures but accepts them as an important part of the overall development process. Establishing such a culture also helps managers generate more support among all stakeholders.
Author: Rodica Kobbelt
Senior Consultant | Authorized signatory
Expert in e-commerce | Project Manager | Product Owner