February 03 2021

People deliver or derail digital transformation

Simon Cookson, Co-Founder of Northern Value Creators and speaker at the Why IT Projects Fail webinar, breaks down why trust is vital in business change.

 

Want to lead a successful IT transformation that makes a difference?

Where both your people and your business thrive, and you’re not left feeling burnt out, frustrated or defeated?

Of course you do. 

And yet, you know what the research tells you...

IT projects fail because of a lack of engagement, failure to embrace change, poor ways of working and poor communication. It’s the people piece that will deliver the change or derail it.

So what determines whether the people piece will deliver or derail your project? Well, after twenty years delivery experience and five years helping clients develop their teams, I am certain it's not the tech you choose, nor is it having the ‘right’ people. These factors are important, but underpinning everything is: how your people work together, how much they trust you and each other. 

Empathy & Understanding + Ability & Skill = Trust

I truly believe the success of your IT project largely depends on levels of fear and trust within your organisation. Why? 

A successful IT project makes a positive impact on your organisation, it changes things for the better. Change brings with it uncertainty, change takes extra effort and adds extra risk. In the face of change, ancient parts of our brain whose main function is to keep us alive get triggered. Our stress responses are activated and our IQ drops - in the face of a threat, chemicals in our brains stop us accessing our higher cognitive functions. This helped us to run away from that tiger on the savannah; it’s not as handy in the office. 

The problem is during the delivery of IT projects you’ll need your people at their best. Problems will need solving, things will go wrong and it will get stressful. If you are to realise your ambitions, you’ll need people to be creative, resilient and prepared to put in the extra effort.

Your people will not be at their best unless they feel psychologically safe and trust each other. So how do you do it?

Well I can’t tell you what’s right for your organisation. But I will ask two questions:

1. To deliver your ambitions do you need people to be resilient, adaptable and to work together to solve complex problems?

2. Do you think you can demand that people trust you?

I can help those who answer yes to question one and no to question two.

The first step being to understand that you can’t tell people what to think or how to feel. Thus we need to encourage the behaviours we need without being directive. The team at Northern Value Creators and I have spent the past 5 years developing methods of achieving this. Here are three canny pointers to start the process of building high trust in your teams.

 

1: Build an honest picture of fear and trust in your organisation

Levels of fear and trust will have a huge impact on the success of your project, so you need to know where you are starting from. We use a specialist survey developed by a US behavioural science firm to build a unique picture of trust; but you can start by simply talking to people. 

Start a conversation with people about how they feel. This might be uncomfortable for you and them at first, especially if this is very different to how you normally act. Practice with people you already share high trust with and remember to never judge or act on any instant need to defend yourself or the company - no matter what they say. This is time for you to listen, ask questions and respect whatever is said. 

2: Model the behaviours you want to see in others

Ever heard the saying: ‘children will copy what you do, not what you tell them to do’? It’s the same at work. Your people need their leaders to show the way. You and your management teams need to lead and work in ways that build trust. So the best place to start is with yourself. Do you have a growth mindset, or are you scared of failure? Are you comfortable with not knowing? Do you ask more than tell? Are you ever vulnerable in front of others? 

3: Raise awareness of how we naturally react to change and uncertainty

Learning a little neuroscience is really helpful in getting to grips with how people react to change and how we can work with our brain chemistry to build trust. With just a little knowledge we see teams opening up with each other, using a new shared language to talk about their reactions like never before. A great place to start is Dr Dan Siegal’s hand model of the brain.

If you can try some of these activities, or simply start thinking more about levels of trust in your organisation you will have begun the process of developing a culture and way of working that can deliver anything. 

Imagine what you could achieve if your people transform the way they work together.

The People Primer

If you’d like help to get the people piece of your strategy right we have developed the People Primer. It is specially designed to complement IT projects, priming your people for success.

In as little as 4 weeks the People Primer will involve, engage and encourage your people. Bringing them to a place where they can embrace better ways of behaving and working. 

Get in touch with simon@northernvaluecreators.com if you'd like to know more.

Simon and Amanda Cookson founded Northern Value Creators to lend a hand to ambitious digital and creative businesses. They work with leaders to unlock value within themselves, their people and partnerships.

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