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Dealing with changes in IT project teams

Anyone who works in IT&C or knows the IT&C market acknowledges that it is very dynamic area, full of challenges and twists. This also means that any company that wants to succeed must make sure that every employee must be capable of adapting to changing situations very fast. The flip side is that with so many changes to deal with it is very easy to drift away from your plans and get yourself, the project or the entire organization into a difficult situation.

Anyone who works in IT&C or knows the IT&C market acknowledges that it is very dynamic area, full of challenges and twists. This also means that any company that wants to succeed must make sure that every employee must be capable of adapting to changing situations very fast. The flip side is that with so many changes to deal with it is very easy to drift away from your plans and get yourself, the project or the entire organization into a difficult situation.

Managers can get into situations where it's pretty easy to go the wrong way when proposing or adapting to changes.

What are the risks?

Sometimes managers decide to keep a distance between their team and any change initiative – and any turmoil that may come with it. This is done for many reasons, be it lack of information or the fact that the news is negative, and managers want their teams to be protected and disturbed as little as possible. But the result of this unnecessarily protective behavior may surprise you. Instead of a climate of trust and focus on performance, people will experience a sense of uncertainty increased by a lack of information, where assumptions and word of mouth will replace normal communication. Not all people will ask their manager about what's going on and many will make backup plans if things should go wrong. Guess who will be surprised by their decision? In fact this behavior focuses people on getting information rather than performing in their daily tasks.

The second risk comes from assuming people will embrace change no matter what and that everybody will just adapt to the new situation. Lack of support is one of the reasons implementing changes in a team will fail.

Not having a plan or answers to provide, not to mention a high level of support for the new situation will only give unreasonable and unrealistic hopes on how the future will look like. The lack of competence in shifting from the current state to a new objective will trigger a sense of low self-trust.

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What you can do

If you are managing a team in an IT environment takes note of following rules for managing change:

  • Clarity
While you may wish for more information from upper management, you will rarely get ALL that you need and if you do, it may be too late. So, the first thing is to get all available facts and come forward to your team. You want to be the person who initiates the discussion. Speak clearly about what is going to happen and what information is available at the moment. If there are still some questions marks, come clean and admit you still need details.

  • Rationale
Always explain the reason why a change is needed. Most of the time it is related to the company’s vision or strategy so be prepared to explain that. Studies on motivation show that people are looking to be part of something bigger than their own work so offering context makes them part of the change. Remember that acceptance doesn't mean excitement about a change but agreeing with the reason of it.

  • What doesn’t change
It rarely happens that a business change means completely giving up on what you are doing now. Tell people what won’t change. This gives a sense of direction and stability.

  • What will stop
Inertia is a property of human behavior during changes. Therefore being clear about what behaviors or actions are not required anymore is an absolute must. Even if it's a system, a process or a procedure just make it clear and also offer a substitute for it.

  • Call for action
Ultimately a change is complete only if people support it. This means a manager has to encourage his team to adapt to the new situation through his own behavior. You should also use constant feedback both to appreciate those who adapt to the change and also correct any behavior that might have a negative impact.

Dan Bruma
Specialist in Project Management, Soft Skills

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