Consider Team Members' Personalities When Creating a Change Control Group


In her Personality Matters series, Leslie Sachs examines the personalities and people issues that are found in technology groups from cross-functional, high-performance teams to dysfunctional matrix organizations.

Creating a change control group (or any other process improvement effort) can be incredibly successful—or it can get bogged down with impossible "people" issues, often due to conflicting communication styles and personalities. If you want your team to be a success, you may need to consider some of these people issues, or else risk failure due to personality issues that really matter. It's not hard to address these challenges and build a change control function that will succeed despite some of the inherent challenges in getting people who may have very different styles and approaches to work together.

Why can't everyone play nice?
As a School Psychologist, I have known of many colleagues who worked in high risk situations implementing and supporting interventions such as conflict resolution. This is makes sense when you are teaching adolescent youth to find constructive ways to express themselves, but it seems pretty silly when technology professionals fail to work together in a constructive and appropriate way. Yet corporate politics and conflicting agendas often result in grown-ups acting far worse than the bully on the playground. This always makes me wonder why everyone cannot just learn to play nicely together.

Resistance to Change Control

Implementing Change Control can be sabotaged by any number of behaviors which undermine the effectiveness of the process improvement effort. Sometimes, members refuse to participate in Change Control efforts and other times they resist by failing to volunteer information that they know (or should know) is essential for success. I know of one instance where a government agency, in Washington, D.C., had separate change control functions for both the data security group and the infrastructure systems group. The managers of these groups, did not get along well and so their subordinates did not participate in each others Change Control meetings. This resulted in mistakes that led to Production outages. This is just one example of how "professionals" resist cooperating with each other's change control efforts (that probably should have been vetted by one unified Change Control Board).

Not invented here
The most common example of this destructive behavior is when technology professionals refuse to consider anybody else's good ideas - but their own. This is known as the "not invented here" syndrome. Some people just cannot break out of this behavior pattern, which can be very limiting and short-sighted. One approach, I've found helpful, is to show people how the proposed idea is actually very close to their own - since often these individuals are just looking to have their expertise and contributions acknowledged.

Teamwork and competition
A football team certainly does have a team captain who may or may not be the team quarterback. But despite these trophy positions - the team loses if the ball hits the ground. When dealing with a team full of  with tough personalities - it is critical to retrain them in the goals and objectives of the game. Rewarding the team for success (as a team) is obviously critical as well.

Where is the Leadership?
Senior Management plays a critical role in dealing with these challenges. Most technology professionals are very astute at picking up on the priorities set by their management and will work hard to meet the goals of their immediate family.

Planning for Risk Takers
Change Control can also be undermined by the technology professionals who just "love" risk. Many organizations can only be described as the "Wild Wild West" and their members often thrive on risk - and sadly - refuse to participate with efforts to mitigate risk. Obviously, this can result in serious mistakes - leading to costly outages.

You don't know what you don't know
Every Springtime, Jews retell the Biblical Story of Passover. One traditional anecdote refers to four sons who each ask about the holiday questions according to their own personality. One of the son's "did not know how to ask" the questions. Often Change Control is undermined because technology professionals do not know what they do not know! Worse, they do not know how to ask and there are even corporate cultures where it is just not safe for them to admit ignorance and ask the right questions. The Change Control Board needs to show the courage to ask all the right questions and thereby uncover any latent risks that will inevitably be uncovered when the release fails!

Quality and Productivity
There are many ways in which Change Control can improve quality and productivity. Much of this relates to the fact that the teams can work together better if these personality issues are addressed for the good of the organization.

Personality and Teamwork certainly matter a great deal. You need to consider these "people" issues when you start your Change Control function. Please feel free to contact me regarding your own experience addressing these and other personality challenges that can impact the success (or failure) of your organization.

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