Change Agents

It's natural to resist change. But change is imperative for local and state agencies to achieve their goals.

Inertia feels good. Most of us already know how to do whatever it is that we're doing now. Whether or not it’s what we should be doing — or whether or not it’s working — at least we know how to do it. That’s why most New Year’s resolutions were broken not long after midnight. I know mine was. Still, substantive, positive change, while tough to get started, feels much better.

But the resistance to change makes the role of change agent a difficult one. That’s why most organizations bring in someone from the outside to manage it. The state of Minnesota is a prime example. Like an increasing number of governments, the fine folks in Minnesota realized that they faced a critical juncture: They could continue down a path of 1,000 different networks and incompatible applications or reorganize their way out. Of course, the state chose the latter path and brought in Gopal Khanna as its first chief information officer.

After spending most of his career in the private sector, Khanna took on the role of change agent at the Peace Corps, and now hopes to bring the same positive results to his role as state CIO. His story can be found on page 11.

Our “Filtering Spam vs. Deleting It ” article is written by Garth Olaf Bruen. A project manager at MassHousing, a Massachusetts state agency, Bruen knows firsthand how spam can be a drain on network and personnel resources. Bruen advocates that IT staffers change their approach to spam. The vast majority of the spam that plagues our networks comes from a small group of suspects. Bruen believes that by reporting fraudulent e-mail instead of just deleting it, we can deliver a knockout punch to the spam problem. You can read about Bruen’s spam-fighting suggestions on page 42.

As a former CIO and now the president of CDW•G Inc., Jim Shanks tackles the tough job of developing strategy and managing the tactical elements that support it. He approaches big problems by posing open-ended questions and typically starts by asking “What would happen if ... ?” It’s a great way to initiate strategic change. Once a new campaign or project kicks off, he’s a stickler about following through on the details. That’s critical, according to Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, authors of Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, who say follow-through is key to success.

If you haven’t read Execution, I suggest adding it to your reading list. StateTech™ spoke with Charan about the art of execution management and the sin of micromanagement. Shanks shares those insights and how they apply to managing technology on page 48.

In addition to these three stories about instituting change, the issue includes other great examples of what your peers are doing. Let us know what gets in your way and what you’ve done to clear that path.

Oct 31 2006