To some, change is a dirty word, which should be quite a surprise, as change is the only constant. The acceptance of change has enabled us to move from cave dwelling to moon-walking; not the Michael Jackson kind. Every day things change and as human being we accept it as ‘just one of those things’ so why is it that change at work, for many, causes friction and meets with resistance. This in turn, creates division which affects an organisation’s ability to meet deadlines and can be detrimental to the bottom line (triple or otherwise). So, if we are generally accepting of change why does it make such a difference in the workplace? The key is leadership (this can be different to management but is a discussion for another day).
Too often we attempt to manage the resistance to change with appeasement of the affected parties but appeasement can only result in stagnation. This stagnation is a result of wrong style of leadership used at the wrong time, the easy route, but is actually the time that leaders should be earning their pay.
A short detour to discuss leadership/management styles is probably of use here.
Autocratic – think dictator, my way or the highway! Often thought of as a very military style – not true – but very useful to ensure a team knows exactly who has the lead, what is required and that there is little room for discussion. The leader gains few friends, may lose some in the short term but through strong communication can prevail and, if successful, will generally gain respect thus making future requirement for change more acceptable.
Democratic – The leader shares the decision-making role, provides guidance and assurance so for the most part the ship is heading in the same (correct) direction. A very useful style for creating higher productivity, achieving better group contributions and improving group morale. Democratic leadership can lead to better ideas and more creative solutions. Sometimes the leader will require to be autocratic but that is generally with individual members of the team. Democratic leadership requires that there is still a leader and can be very time consuming.
Delegative/Laissez-faire – a hands-off approach where decision-making is devolved to the team members. The leader does not get involved in decision-making unless asked by the team member. This style works with a highly experienced and trust worthy team but requires regular feedback from the leadership.
Note: All of these leadership styles are used at the most suitable times by good leaders to meet each situation’s needs.
Maybe therefore, the answer is; that it is not an aversion to change that we are observing and appeasing, but a resistance borne out of a lack of clear aims and communication of the process – that will successfully lead to those aims – caused by a lack of the correct style of leadership. The correct style of leadership on these occasions is the one that most are uncomfortable with – strong autocratic leadership. At the very beginning of the change process providing clear direction to all involved to ensure the reasons for the change are clear and that the strategic aim is understood forms the basis for success. The quicker and earlier, this uncomfortable stage takes place, the quicker the leader can move to a more democratic, less uncomfortable for all, style of leadership.
So what does this have to do with the Geospatial environment?
Adoption of geospatial within an organisation often necessarily morphs from a technology acquisition to a full-fledged change management exercise. Many organisations underestimate the profound change geospatial can bring at a core level. Geospatial is not merely a technology, it represents ultimately an opportunity for a change in perspective, a change to the ways of doing business, of looking at data, at engaging with customers and/or stakeholders. If this opportunity is embraced it can be a good thing for the organisation however, geospatial can only deliver to full potential when adopted as a fundamental change in the way of thinking and doing business.
Those organisations that choose to ignore this chance for improvement and remain ignorant of geospatial on these terms are left stuck with a nice, often expensive and underutilised, piece of technology. It may deliver some value to some of the organisation (nice maps for reporting), however, due to this sub-optimal use, over time geospatial technology is likely to become harder to financially justify.
Therefore with any such geospatial adoption, success ultimately returns to the need for a leader who is capable of recognising the opportunity and driving the change through use of the correct leadership style. Thus leadership is very relevant and consideration of the correct style forms the best basis for spatially enabling an organisation.
Oh, by the way, leadership through appeasement is not leadership at all.