Are You A Change Enabler or Are You Allergic To Change?

I’m a private contractor, and I work as a consultant in various enterprises for short to mid-term contracts. They usually last for a 6 to 18 month period, and are usually to realize the conception, design, and installation of new technology or integration of different networks (i.e. the merger of 2 companies). This also means that every year or so, I totally change environments, coworkers, business processes, etc.

One of the many challenges I’m facing is the resistance to change, because – let’s face it – we humans hate changes. We would like it, if it were possible, to live in the same environment forever once we feel secure and in control. Unfortunately, it is uncommon to have that luxury. Everyday in IT, there is a shiny new gizmo that promises to relieve network administrators from their pain. Change is inevitable and in fact, part of everyday life. It is what makes our job challenging and not routine, as there is always something new to learn.

In my current assignment, I’m facing many challenges as the network infrastructure is old and undocumented. Plus, it has been underfunded for so many years that I’m impressed by how the telecom team managed to face the many issues that the business deals with just to continue their operations.

There is a project to finally update the whole telecom infrastructure, and I’m amazed to see how hard it is to get the staff on board. The project consists of several big tasks:

  • Replacing and upgrading the routing and switching infrastructure, firewalls, VPN concentrators and proxies across the whole enterprise.
  • Implementing OSPF, as they are currently using RIP.
  • Segmenting the network and implementing proper VLAN segmentation.
  • Getting the network ready for VoIP and WLAN.
  • Implementing new monitoring software.

It is most likely the biggest project the telecom team has faced in the last 10 years.

I would have thought that the internal telecom staff would jump on the opportunity to improve their network, ease their management burden, and reduce the support load, but it is the complete opposite. There is little enthusiasm. Simply getting information about how the proxies are configured, what the rule set on the existing firewalls looks like, or how VPN access is managed is a challenge. Decommissioning equipment becomes an endeavour.

What could explain this resistance?

  • Maybe the staff perceives that keeping the old, undocumented infrastructure is job security.
  • There’s doubt that the project will be fully delivered, similar to other IT project failures.
  • Perhaps they are comfortable with the current environment with no interest in learning something new.
  • There could be concern that personal compensation will be lost due to less after hours support.
  • “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” syndrome.

Maybe the answer is found in one or more of the above. So in your enterprise, are you a change enabler or not? And what are the reasons why you are one or the other?

I believe that we change for the better, and that learning new technology is a part of our industry. Yes, it is challenging and keeps us out of our comfort zone, but at the end of the day – when we finally master something new – there is great satisfaction.

Keep in mind this quote from Henry Ford: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.” I hope you will stay young for as long as you live.

Mario Gingras
Consultant en télécommunication et CCIE #7704 depuis plus de 10 ans, et totalisant plus de 25 ans d’expérience en TI, 10 year Network consultant and CCIE #7704 with over 25 years expérience in IT, Suivez moi / Follow me on Twitter , Google Plus , Linkedin
Mario Gingras

Latest posts by Mario Gingras (see all)

  • http://etherealmind.com Etherealmind

    I tend to point the finger at bad management practices such as ITIL, Risk Management and Change Control. The sheer burden of process compliance is so bad today, and the negative consquences from a blamestorm have worn most of us down. 

    For my money, the problems are not technical or engineering, they are management and corporate problems. Company management process needs to become more flexible and adaptive to handle intelligent risk taking. 

    We shouldn’t blame ourselves for failures in leadership. 

    • http://twitter.com/Vegaskid1973 Matt Thompson

      And if that failure is persistent and immune to common sense suggestions of improvement, then you are sadly in an environment that you need to get out of.

  • http://www.firstdigest.com/ Calin C.

    Hello Mario!

    That’s a nice post, but if I may, at the end of the article you made me a little confused with Henry Ford quote.

    In my eyes, sometimes willingness or resistance to change has nothing to do with the process of learning in any life aspects (professional or personal). I’m always keen to improve myself and the working environment, but I cannot say that I the guy with that wants to change something just for the pleasure of changing.

    What you reflect in your post with the Voice department is 100% correct, but I was in front of a different scheme.  Example: let’s change equipment provider X with Y because Y cost less, but as technician I know that they cannot sustain the company business. This is a change made by somebody who’s thinking at the annual bonus. In such cases, I don’t want to jump in the change boat, just to show my enthusiasm. I might be seen as a resistant to changes by some departments in the company. This has a little bit to do with what Greg said in his comment.

    On the other hand I’m in the front line if some person make me understand why the change is needed or I’m the person who propose the change if I see a gain or improvement.  Strange, but in this cases the above group seems to be resistant to my new change proposal :)

    I think a change needs to fulfill a purpose. Otherwise it’s just waste of time.

  • http://realworlducs.com/ Craig

    Have been on both sides of this. It isn’t fun to have done a
    good job and have a new person come in and try to push you off your seat.
    Especially when they are just power hungry and lack talent and after making a
    mess of your system, blame you, and go onto the next shiny thing. This only
    happens under bad management.

    Recently a new person came in, and he tried to push his way
    into my domain. We have several people that work on the systems in question and
    I am no gate keeper. But I do protect my babies (system I have built and am
    building) and do it together with a team. Often I have others drive while I
    watch. I get the vendors to give us training and push the others into it. Yes
    it gets scary to level people with you, but it also creates loyalty and a real
    team. If you get left behind one day, so be it. Man up! lol But be not mistaken
    a bully who thinks they can walk all over me and push me out gets destroyed. Like it or not you have to be ready to fight sometimes. Teamwork isn’t a problem, but being undermined and pushed off your chair is. Be known as a person that hits back with shock and awe at your company and it happens a lot less. 

    At the same time there are gatekeepers who become “Ambassadors”
    of their systems. Nobody can get past them. Not even their managers. They want
    the perfect union job adding users to AD until they retire. For the people who
    don’t want to learn, but create firewalls around their systems… well that is a
    management issue. If that is happening too much at a company get out. That is
    the only way to deal with it. You cannot fight it.

    Compassion is also important. We really need to have empathy
    for one another. I understand how a person feels who sees their comfy position
    changing. Like a SAN person who sees Enterprise NAS ending their career as they
    know it. Or all the ESX guru’s who have to face the reality of Windows8. We
    spend a lot of time getting good at something only to have it become irrelevant.

    The key is to keep learning dang it. If technology isn’t
    fun, and you don’t do it because you love it… well you are going to get walked
    over by eager people. Remember the new age book title, “Do what you love and
    the money will follow”. I have never worked hard in technology, I love it too
    much.

     

    Craig