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One CIO’s change management journey



Lately, I find that my career has changed to the point that I am more of a change manager than an IT professional. When approaching an initiative, I first consider: Whose lives am I changing for the better? If the answer makes business sense, I go proceed with the initiative, subject to constraints imposed by the ecosystem.


When I look back, my interest in change management started in 1995 when I was working for a chemical plant that produced synthetic yarn. Although I was a programmer analyst, I enjoyed the significant piece of responsibility of keeping the lights on for production, warehouse, and stores—ensuring that enhancements were carried out and business expectations were met.


The PCs were called "boxes" by the staff. Some employees hated the boxes, and saw them as a constraint in their manual ways of working.


In those days, I used to observe that every morning, line managers would generate a daily report using a spreadsheet (Lotus 1-2-3 was widely used) and present it for senior management to review. I got hold of the sheet one fine morning and was surprised to see the numbers. My bosses were also surprised with the information that it carried.


We felt there was a deliberate attempt to manipulate the situation even though the records based on available data revealed the discrepancy in the manual. We made some investigations on the physical availability of raw material, production schedule and other details, only to discover that the manual report presented on a daily basis by line managers was incorrect.


It was tough to convince the business leadership to use computers. They either hated the idea or were too scared to use them. Most people at the senior level were close to retirement. So we came up with an idea to create stickiness. We gave our business leaders personal computers with games installed on it and taught them how to play. I personally used to visit them during lunchtime to ensure they got all the help and support needed to play. We told them that it was for fun and relaxation.


Initially only a few were interested but soon all of them were enjoying the games. Within two weeks, the "box" became an important gadget and to a limited extent, people started looking at it as a source of entertainment.


We quietly automated the daily manual report using exactly the same template that the management was used to seeing. One morning, we shipped it to the desktops and trained them to use it. Much to our surprise, we found that they were quite comfortable in generating the report. Though this was done, I had a lot of fear about what would happen next. Any wrong move could cost me my job and the department would lose its credibility. I had a sleepless night thinking what could go wrong.


The next morning, I arrived early and checked the report and compared it against the data. At the back of my mind, I knew that this would be the beginning of a positive change to the status quo.


The daily meeting started with the regular updates by line managers on the data that was prepared (read: cooked) manually. But in the middle of the conversation, one of the directors dropped the bombshell. He generated the computer report and put it up for comparison with the manual report while questioning its numbers and authenticity.


All hell broke loose. Both sides were holding on to their data. Years of legacy and islands of half-baked truth cannot be overturned in one go. Eventually, the line managers were asked to settle the discrepancy with IT (EDP, those days).


I saw a dozen red-faced line managers entering (read: invading) our computer center. I knew the fun had started. Initially, they gave me angry looks and then went straight into my manager's room. They challenged the information provided to the leadership and raised concerns about us providing the information to their bosses without going through them. But finally it was decided that a thorough investigation be launched.


By the end of the day, we were able to convince them that the computer-generated report was correct and best represented the picture on the ground. This was a beginning of the change that we wanted to bring about.


From the next morning onward, the daily report was automated and the rest, as they say, is history. Though I am not a great advocate of top-down change, in this case the first successful change was driven from the top.


Subsequently, we changed the perception about IT. This one change not only generated respect but also some amount of fear about the result that the "box" could deliver. As the dependency on IT exponentially increased, it created pressure on us to manage expectations. We demonstrated how automation could be used for optimization initiatives and create discipline with better management of inventories. Soon, IT became a strategic partner to business.


Related links:

What’s your CIO CIQ (competency intelligence quotient)?

‘Hallway marketing’ and the soft CIO


Currently a partner at CIO Specialist Advisory LLP, DD Mishra has more than 19 years of experience in IT. He has played key roles, including IT governance and outsourcing, program and portfolio management, consultancy, presales and delivery for various customers in the UK, India and Singapore and has experience from both the buyer side and seller side. He is a member of the Discover Performance community's IT Strategy & Performance LinkedIn group.


This blog was first posted on and is being reposted with prior permission.

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