Gary Allison's Leadership Blog

Leadership14 May 2006 03:13 pm

Ok, so I’m a little late for the US New Year, but made it in time for Chinese New Year! It’s natural at this time of year to think about changes we need to make in our organizations, teams, and lives. This is not a self-help column, so I leave the latter to Dr. Phil. Software execs rarely have time the think, much less put together a web page. Thankfully, my wife has enabled me to do both this morning…


So about Change…


Teams, especially software engineering teams tend to do tackle obstacles using methodologies that have proven successful previously. Clearly, at times, a proven approach is a valuable thing, but with the challenges of competition, changing technologies, and new marketplaces, we as software engineers need to continually be challenging the status quo.

 This is doubly challenging given the extraordinary efforts just to get things done in the first place using methods that have served us in the past. So, lets look at the reasons people resist change to better understand how to encourage change:

  • Time pressures – e.g. imminent delivery dates
  • Comfort with known approaches
  • Lack of leadership
  • Lack of expectation
  • Lack of trust
  • Organizational alignment
  • Fear

Driving innovation and change is paramount to survival in technology markets, so the above are some of the issues we need to address to lead our teams to success. We can go into each of the above in detail, but this is a blog, not a book, so lets focus instead on how to accomplish change. 

In Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki talks about making meaning in terms of one of the ideals that a start up should have. This is true in selling change to teams as well. People want their lives and work to have meaning. If you can show how the change adds meaning, this is a powerful tool.

 What we need to successfully accomplish significant change:

  • Persistence – an unrelenting force that will not abate until change is accomplished
  • Vision – a direction for the team to grasp, and believe in through difficult times of change
  • Communication – clearly outlining the reasons for change, removing blame from the discussion, and clearly explaining the desired positive outcomes
  • Catalysts – people who cause change to happen, through new ideas, through setting an example, or through just being a burr under the saddle. They cause the reaction to start.
  • Leadership – people to support the team change, giving time, resources, vision, and anything else required to accomplish the change.

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