IT leaders can best help their organizations when they’re aware of and can clearly communicate upcoming changes

How should IT leaders better communicate change?


IT leaders can best help their organizations when they’re aware of and can clearly communicate upcoming changes

In a recent graduate course on Leadership and Technology, a discussion thread asked the question: What does a leader need to know about the organization’s technology issues in order to be effective?

Much of the student discussion revolved around the concepts of change management and the struggles leaders face when changes are not fully communicated throughout an organization. Most of the students in this organizational leadership program are currently frontline supervisors aspiring to higher levels of leadership, in diverse organizations from health care to sports management, through higher education.

One student wrote that if leaders were to be made aware of upcoming changes, they would be able to communicate with their teams more effectively, even if it is as basic as “this change is coming, more to come.”

The lack of such communication to frontline supervisors can cause a lot of frustration and confusion. Better communication would allow for leaders to focus not on how to communicate another poorly trained tool, but on the training itself and the potential positives of the changes. The lack of communication prior to changes can be a catalyst for errors and frustration.

Another student identified that employees are more productive and open when they understand the changes being made and how to use new equipment or software. If IT leaders can ensure communication to first line supervisors, department heads, and others in both formal and informal leadership positions, nearly all IT implementations will be smoother than without such communications.

In large organizations, it might even make sense to set up a key communicators list as some public organizations build out with community stakeholders. These key communicator groups are sent more detailed information about upcoming press releases and similar proactive information. IT leaders could use this same process to alert interested employees about upcoming technology changes. Such key communicator groups can be used to scaffold upon and support more traditional lines of organizational communication. This allows employees to feel more empowered and engaged in the implementation of new systems. It could emphasize the importance of bringing employees to the table early in the planning stages to help ensure success.

A student in health care articulated the advantage of providing a playground or sandbox for employees to use to experience new data systems. She wrote that this helps employees feel more comfortable as they can try it without worrying that they may make a mistake or cause an error in the system.

Where possible, allowing a practice dataset, even after the full implementation of new systems, can be a boon for employees needing to work through a new process or working on how to more effectively mine data from a system. This can be as effective a process in educational settings as in health care.

Simple and direct notification to all staff of upcoming downtime and scheduled maintenance is another simple way to effectively communicate with employees and students. One of the keys to communication in today’s fluid IT environment is that over-communication is not possible–more communication is most often positive.

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