Alyned Thinking

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Why is change so hard?

This is a question I am confronted with almost everyday and a challenge that I need to meet when convincing new customers of Alyne: Why is change so hard?

At its core, organisations are embracing digital transformation when leveraging a tool like Alyne to automate or enhance risk or compliance processes, however the core challenge of digital transformation is not technology – it is people. I do not yet have a perfect solution to enabling that change with the involved stakeholders, but I do have some data points I have gathered in working with many different organisations.

Every individual is different and there is always a unique set of factors that influence behaviour and attitude when I meet stakeholders in sales or business development situations. However, I have been able to identify some patterns and abstracted some common “personas”. These are of course generalisations, but it is my basis for developing better strategies to deal with change.

 

 1. The Visionary 

The Visionary loves new things, loves the change, but also loves change so much, that the visionary quickly changes his or her mind, moves on to the next shiny object or loses interest, if the process drags on too long. The visionary may also not always be taken seriously by others in the organisation for that reason. The Visionary is often in a leadership position and well removed from operational challenges and will gloss over details.

Common Visionary Quote: “We could completely change everything and then we will just use machine learning and a chatbot to do XYZ.” 

 

2. The Worker Bee 

The Worker Bee cannot fathom the thought that the current process could ever be done in a different way. Often the Worker Bee is in an operational role, potentially middle management. The Worker Bee sees challenges to all change but his or her role is also not incentivised to support change. The Worker Bee faces more work with limited upside from potential change.

Common Worker Bee Quote: “Why doesn’t this digital solution look and work exactly like my spreadsheet?”

 3. The Skeptic

The Skeptic likes change, sees the value in optimising, is troubled by current inefficiencies, but does not have sufficient pull in the organisation to affect the necessary change. The Skeptic errs on the side of caution, because the Skeptic feels the rest of the organisation is “not ready” for this kind of change. 

Common Skeptic Quote: “I love it, but our business is so conservative, they just need a simple form that looks just like the tool we have had for the last 15 years.”

 

 4. The Old School IT Guy 

The Old School IT Guy (ok, it could be a girl, but mostly it’s a guy) is likely older, has seen fads come and go and cannot wrap his head around the fact that the enterprise world is moving to cloud. The Old School IT Guy resists anything that is not in the organisation’s own data center, partly because he sees a career’s worth of experience becoming more and more irrelevant. He therefore consistently tries to find reasons not to go cloud.  

Common Old School IT Guy Quote: “We can’t go to the cloud because of privacy laws and our regulators forbid it” (they don’t)

 

Often it is my job to manage these personas and convince the room of the merit of the change I propose. I have come up with some strategies I am constantly refining.

  1. Introduce a draft change and implementation plan early on. Provide a clear path to establish a new solution to show the Visionary and the Skeptic how this change can be achieved - in reality.
  2. Prepare use cases using exact terminology The Worker Bee is used to. Convincing the Worker Bee is of course still not a sure thing. The Worker Bee remains likely my biggest challenge - but learning as much as possible up front of how The Worker Bee’s current process works is essential.
  3. Know privacy law, regulatory requirements and the regulator opinions applicable to cloud use in detail. We prepared a detailed statement on the German regulator’s statement on cloud usage to pre-empt the Old School IT Guy.
  4. Bring success stories and a change management strategy for the Skeptic to give more confidence that this proposed change can work.
  5. Split up groups of Skeptics. When I see too many of the personas ganging up in a meeting or call, I try and ask for a separate one on one session to address concerns. Often there is a critical mass of change Skeptics or Worker Bees where a Visionary will simply give up because the conflict is not worth it to the Visionary. That’s when you have lost the game.  

Convincing a large enterprise is still a challenge. It doesn’t always go my way, however I consistently try to learn and optimise. There is also a factor of enterprise complexity, decision culture, tone from the top, and purchasing situation - and of course personal fit that can influence an organisation’s willingness to change. 

Many challenges remain that I have yet to optimise and I look forward to updating you on my progress.

 

Karl Viertel
Author: Karl Viertel
About the author
Founder & CEO of Alyne, IT security professional, gadget enthusiast.