Management commitment….of course we are committed!

Published on Sunday 16 December 2012 by in Blog with no comments

….Of course, I and my management team are fully committed to this change initiative!

However, ‘No management commitmentstill scores the number 1 globally in the ABC of ICT resistance exercises. Some experts declare ‘Management commitment’ is a fallacy, you will never get it, managers have other more pressing priorities. Whilst others declare that the change is going nowhere without it. In my experiences so far, managers do genuinely believe they are committed. The problem is, the behavior they see as demonstrating commitment isn’t the behavior the rest of the organization needs to see.

This article describes a case study showing how one management team believed they were committed, then through a simple intervention they rediscovered, and refocused on what was needed.

A CIO of a large global financial organization had initiated an ITSM improvement initiative. He was finding it difficult to create the buy-in and energy for the initiative and was meeting barriers and resistance.

A series of business  simulation workshops(Apollo 13)  were held to address these issues and to empower people. Concrete improvement suggestions would be captured that would enable the organization to drive the change forward.

In the simulation delegates had learnt to translate ITSM theory into practice and they had also been confronted with ‘management commitment’. Management commitment meant ‘setting and communicating clear goals’, ‘ensuring roles, responsibilities, authority and accountability’ was embedded in the organization, recognizing and rewarding ‘desirable behavior’ and confronting and addressing the damaging ‘saying yes but doing no’ behavior that surfaced during the pre-simulation  ABC assessment workshops.

The CIO or a member of the Management team gave the kick-off to each simulation session to explain the new vision, values and goals, and was also in attendance at the end of the day to explain what would happen with the captured improvement suggestions, and to confirm the MT commitment to the changes. Energy was high, there was belief that changes would happen.  The MT had promised to take away the improvements, prioritize them and embed them in ongoing improvement initiatives, or embed them in line activities.

We had seen it all before. The critical success and fail factor following a simulation is how the learning and improvements will now be transferred into daily operations and concrete action. This is where many organizations fail to realize the value of such a training intervention. (See blog on transferring knowledge).

The simple intervention: I suggested I be allowed to return in 6 months’ time to walk around in the IT organization to see for myself if the captured improvements had been carried out and if the attitude, behavior and culture change had succeeded. The CIO agreed.

This is a good way of putting us under pressure and having an external control to keep us on our toes’.

After 6 months I returned and was allowed to walk around and interview a number of people. I could choose.  I asked a simple set of questions:

  • What were(are) we trying to achieve? (Is this still known)
  • What have we achieved so far? Based upon the captured suggestions and recommendations from the simulation sessions? (Is this felt and experienced)
  • Have we achieved the required behavior change?(Is everybody demonstrating the desired behavior and addressing undesirable behavior)
  • What have we failed to achieve that needs to be improved? (Empowering people)
  • What resistance do we encounter? (Identifying barriers that are still preventing success)

These were the findings:

What are (were) we trying to achieve?

  • Very few could name the vision for IT
  • None could name the 3 key focus areas of IT.These being: Operational efficiency, Quality of service, It’s all about people, which were the key drivers and goals of the overall improvement program.
  • Very few could name the core values (desirable behavior).  These being (Do the right things, do things right, keep it simple, walk-the-talk, agreement is an agreement, personal stretch).
  • Very few  could name a Key Performance Indicator(KPI)  which would indicate that the key pillars are being achieved. People also don’t ask what the KPI’s are, they expect managers to tell them and communicate these. People do not take ‘ownership’ for goals, objectives and KPIs.  Yet in Apollo this was named as a key improvement need.

MT response: ‘We have communicated all of this, all managers have done this!’ (….once at the start of the program and at the kick-off in the simulation sessions). Only one manager in the management team explored the findings, was self-reflective and open. It appeared that the people that could name the core values, the few that knew the goals and KPI’s and the few that confronted others on behavior all came from HIS department!

What have we achieved so far? 

The questions we asked were related to the ‘desired behavior’ and improvements captured and suggested by employees during the simulation. 

  • Most people named ‘Cost of ownership’ or ‘Customer satisfaction’ as having improved.
    (Consolidation of IT, Improved Service desk).
  • People believe, or think, that managers are (implicitly) steering on the strategic goals and KPIs.
  • Some people have more confidence to address people on responsibility and discuss face-to-face issues and disagreements as they did in the simulation sessions, however many don’t.  All but one of the managers do not openly facilitate or stimulate this.
  • There are more cross team discussion instead of emails, less throwing it over the wall and saying not my responsibility, as they had learnt during the simulations. This was all stimulated from one team, the team whose manager was open and self-reflective in the MT session.
  • There is more transparency to the customer(within some teams), if an agreement cannot be met then customers are told in simple terms and offered alternatives, once again as learnt during the simulations and a key improvement take-away
  • We have not celebrated the successes booked so far, nor openly promoted them or marketed them internally and externally as successes.
  • Managers do not recognize or reward the desirable behavior or the achievements so far.
  • Some managers are walking the talk (not the majority however).

MT: ‘We have achieved more than this. A number of KPI’s have been achieved. The MT is well aware of the strategy. It is often on the agenda of MT meetings…….(but what about the agenda of team and department meetings?, what about communicating and celebrating success with the teams?) 

What have we failed to address? 

  • Too little focus on empowering the teams to make the improvements suggested. Too little focus on carrying through on the improvements. Too many other PRIORITIES. This was one of the top improvement suggestions. The need to adopt a pragmatic approach to CSI, to continually improve and demonstrate value.
  • It’s all about the people. Too little focus on people development, too little focus from managers. Managers do not facilitate or coach people and teams. They expect them to all suddenly be empowered and self steering.
  • Only 3 people took away and applied their ‘personal improvement action’ recorded at the end of the simulation session and discussed this in the personal appraisal meeting with their manager (its all about people, stretch goals?). Once again this was the same manager as before.
  • Mosts managers did not actively pursue in one-on-one meetings the personal improvement actions, and many one-on-one meetings had been cancelled or rescheduled a number of times.
  • Managers and employees did not confront each other on ‘agreement is an agreement’ or on undesirable behavior, as identified as a key success factor in the simulation sessions.
  • The number 1 key improvement captured, suggested and wanted by all employees (‘Capturing and sharing knowledge in a KEDB’) has not been addressed at all! This causes frustration and resentment. ‘Managers don’t listen’, ‘Managers don’t walk the talk’, ‘Managers have not communicated WHY nothing has been done on this!’.

MT response: We told people they are expected to take ownership and responsibility and are empowered to suggest improvements…..How many times do we need to tell people?(….what does ‘walk-the-talk’ and ‘It’s all about the people’ mean?)

During the interviews people were also asked to select ABC resistance cards they STILL see and experience within the organization? These were the top cards chosen. 

  • Plan, Do, Stop….No real continual improvement culture.
  • Unable to specify the Value required by the business.
  • Throwing ITIL solutions over the wall and HOPING people will follow them (not involving and engaging teams in improving their own work, which was seen as a critical success factor during the simulations).
  • Never mind about following procedures just do what we normally do; saying yes and doing no.
  • Too little management commitment (to consciously address the above issues and barriers)

The CIO and management team recognized many issues and had a number of ‘Yes but…’ answers, however the ‘Yes but’s’ were not known at the shop floor. The MT recognized that management attention had lapsed and focused on ‘what they perceived as other high priority issues’, not realizing the impact and the frustration this had on the employees and the lack of progress towards their values. A large project had been delayed to significant business frustration, a number of outages had occurred that could have been prevented. These were all caused by people saying ‘yes’and doing ‘no’ and lack of direct open confrontation between team members.

The MT did not realize that people wanted empowerment and improvement but needed coaching, feedback, facilitation skills to do improvement workshops, as they had experienced in the simulations.

After the Apollo sessions they had requested feedback training.  Still no other training had been arranged other than ITIL certification training and technology training. Managers had received NO additional coaching or leadership workshops.  People wanted management to help drive the improvements through the complete end-to-end chain. Not all managers were consistent in messaging or in ‘walking-the-talk’. People wanted managers to confront each other and others when agreements were deliberately ignored or circumvented.

The MT discovered that If an organization is strong ‘technology, adhoc-firefighting, internally focused’, then expecting them to suddenly become ‘customer and service focused and empowered’ is a step too far, without the necessary support and motivation. The MT discovered that a management team that is used to ‘man managing’ and ‘task driven’ needs to learn to facilitate, empower, coach, motivate if they want to achieve empowered teams. This is what management commitment needed to look like to enable the transformation of IT to the next level of maturity.

I shared with the MT some of the findings of the CIO of a large organization in a public health sector, on how his MT achieved  a cultural shift, after also using a business simulation as a way to confront and address attitude and behavior.  ‘Becoming Customer and Service focused is a cultural shift for IT…You can’t impose a Cultural shift!’. Executive support and Executive ACTION is required, supported by action at every level to address peoples’ attitudes and change peoples’ behavior. Executive managers must ‘reward, recognize and celebrate’ the new desired behavior when they see it. Executive managers need to use a set of tools, such as conscious leadership actions- ‘walk-the-talk’, ‘lead by example’, ‘Confront undesirable behavior’. Managers must set expectations and identify deliverables and establish measures – from a ‘Customer perspective’.

‘It is a journey and the Leadership team must be on the same page’, they must be more visible in the organization, attending Service Management meetings and asking questions that make people think from a different perspective. ‘Changing culture requires communication and reinforcement through words, deeds, policies, processes and decisions every day of the year’!

The CIO and MT have agreed a set of consistent actions they need to initiate to demonstrate  management commitment 2.0. They have openly agreed and signed a commitment charter and reserve 10 minutes of ALL team meetings to discuss the status of the Values, the desired and undesired behavior.

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