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The collaborative role

The collaborative role

In this case problem solving is a joint undertaking. Consultants working in this mode apply their special skills to help clients solve problems; they don’t solve problems for the client. The consultant and client work to become interdependent. They share responsibility 50/50 for action planning, implementation and results. Control issues become matters for discussion and negotiation. Disagreement is expected and seen as a source of new ideas.

The consultant’s goal is to solve problems so that they stay solved. Next time the client will have the skills to solve the problem.

In this mode, the relationship between consultant and client is creative, productive and responsibility is shared. This is the most appropriate role for IT people to take with clients in today’s complex organizations. However, it demands that IT people acquire skills beyond the technical. Some clients will see this type of relationship as slow, and may interpret collaboration as some form of obstruction. They will want to gain access to the quick results that the ‘experts’ used to give them, which will lead them to the problems highlighted above with the expert role.

What skills and knowledge might be required to enhance an IT person’s ability to work collaboratively with business managers? The intended outcome is to increase the possibility of implemented IT systems resulting in the intended behaviour change. We suggest that IT people involved in large-scale change initiatives need to acquire the following skills and knowledge if they are to become better agents of change:

  • Knowledge:

    • How does organizational change happen?

    • What motivates people and how can that motivation be activated?

    • Where does resistance to change come from, and how can it be handled?

    • What change processes and what leadership styles are there to choose from, and what are the effects of each?

    • Wide understanding of different business processes.

    • Good understanding of organizational culture and its impact on change.

  • Skills:

    • Coaching managers to solve change issues.

    • Facilitating multidisciplinary team workshops.

    • Influencing those outside your direct control.

    • Client and stakeholder management (saying no as much as you say yes)!!

    • Collaborative process mapping.

    • Ability to speak the client’s language (using their terminology).

If you are an IT person reading this, then your irritation level may now have reached an all-time high! You may be thinking, ‘I am already doing all this!’ We congratulate you, and offer our additional thoughts on the role of HR people in IT-based change. HR people suffer this syndrome in reverse. While they might focus on all the people-related aspects of desired changes, they often fail to grasp the nature of the technology involved. Again this is changing, but slowly.

Enterprise-wide applications such as PeopleSoft are now taking hold in many organizations, replacing many of the tasks that HR people have traditionally called their own (promotion, recruitment, arrangement of training). HR people need to be ready to understand and explore the possibilities offered by these systems so that they can think through how people will be affected, and orientate their internal structures and skills accordingly. This might mean setting up some quite different structures. Some central HR departments that we have worked with are now providing help desks and supporting users of IT, while offering HR policy guidance rather than taking on a full HR management role.

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