Short-Changing Change, Part I

Oct 12, 2005

Joe Santana

The days when a CIO could become a hero by running an operation that effectively supported the business and held down costs are clearly gone. In order to merit even a friendly head nod from the CEO, today’s CIO must create competitive advantage and she or he must create efficiencies that lower the entire company’s costs not just IT’s.

This means today’s CIO must be an effective corporate change agent, not just an effective manager. He or she must do more than introduce new technology. The CIO must change the way people perform their work in order to succeed.

“Woe unto me,” the embattled CIO reading this might say, and rightly so. Years of experience have taught all of us that getting people to change the way they behave is a very tough job.

The bottom line is that whenever you implement a new technology, the business results you produce relative to creating competitive advantage or reducing cost across your entire enterprise depend, for the most part, on how effective you are in changing human behavior.

Often, the people you must change do not report to you. Even more often, they will be your business unit clients or their team members.

If, at this point, you are thinking, “What we need is a training program to help our end user learn how to use the new technology and process … ” I’m sorry to have to tell you that quick “training fixes” are not enough.

No Quick Fix

In trying to overcome the resistance toward adoption of a new technology and/or process, many organizations include the development and delivery of training. Most of these attempts, however, fail to produce the desired results because most of these in-house training programs are poorly constructed crash courses built by people that lack the basic skills in instructional design.

Frankly, most of these so called “training solutions” are (to put it kindly) horrible.

During the course of my career, I have seen more than my share of training programs comprised of thousands of highly animated slides to be delivered within the course of a program. These so-called training programs are boring and therefore not likely to inspire changes in behavior or make the participant receptive to the knowledge being imparted.

The problem here is that, in an effort to create the training as cheaply as possible, the company has under-invested in one of the key critical tools for success. Even when an excellent training program is put together by professional designers, studies show that training alone is not enough.

A few years ago after failing to secure the performance results they expected from a training program, Xerox commissioned a study that showed that participants generally forgot 85% of what they had learned within the first 30 days of completing the program.

Many of these training programs also assume that everyone needs the same information. Often they omit what is needed by one person only to bore another.

After training, most people return to a business environment that does not provide them with a reliable means of measuring, sustaining or improving their effectiveness with new behaviors learned in the program. Without regular feedback and reinforcement, newly acquired skills tend to atrophy and disappear.

Often times participants return to environments that continue to reward old behaviors instead of the new behaviors learned through training.

So, if simply slapping together and rolling out a training program with your new implementation is not likely to work, what can you do to increase your success as a change agent? What specific actions can you take to boost your chances for effectively creating competitive advantage and/or firm-wide cost savings?

What Works

In the second part of this two-part column, I am going to share with you how Wachovia Corp., one of the largest providers of financial services to retail, brokerage and corporate customers, is actually doing this.

Meanwhile, I invite you to take the following quiz to determine the effectiveness of your current behavior/performance change solutions.

Please respond to the following questions indicating a "1" for Yes or a "0" for No:

1. We start our behavior/performance change process, by employing an employee skills-assessment, which is used to create personal development plans toward the adoption of new behaviors.

2. We use a blended learning approach in our training that combines web-based components for knowledge transfer and classroom training for scenario practice.

3. We include at least three months of behavior/performance change coaching as part of all our change solutions.

4. We provide immediate and regular performance feedback to reinforce new behaviors and drive rapid improvements.

5. We adjust performance reward systems, so as to provide incentives for the desired new behavior/performance.

If you scored a perfect five, you appear to be in good shape in the behavior/performance change arena and I believe you will find it interesting to compare what you do with some of Wachovia’s specific key practices in these areas.

If you scored anything below a five, your solutions are very likely incomplete and not producing the results you want. I trust you will find a number of great practices to adopt from Wachovia's work.

While this is admittedly a tough job, it is not impossible. In the second segment of this series, I will share with you a few ideas that you immediately put to work to dramatically improve your ability to manage change.

Joe Santana is an IT organizational development specialist and thought-leader and co-author of "Manage IT." He can be reached at or via his Web site


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