40: Putting People Before Things to Drive Successful Change

May 10, 2016
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I recently came across a book called People Before Things and a couple of things caught my attention straight away. One was “technology can be hard and disruptive but what are you going to do about it?” As you most of you know at the end of every show I say technology works best when it brings people together. I wanted to explore this tech bringing people together so I invited the author Chris Laping onto the podcast today to tell us a little bit more about his experiences.

Can you tell my listeners a little more about yourself?

I have 25 years experience in business transformation and information technology. My career really started in earnest back in 1991 when I was helping a college professor do some transportation and logistics modeling on Lotus 123 if you can believe that. I recently became the CIO and Senior Vice President of Business Transformation at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. I’ve been fortunate enough that 14 of my 25-year career has been in a CIO role. I’ve been a CIO for three different companies.

CHRIS LAPING CO-FOUNDER / CEO

CHRIS LAPING CO-FOUNDER / CEO

I have it on good authority that you’ve received several awards for your work in IT including being named in the Computer World Premiere 100 IT leader list, Information Weeks Social business technology leader award and the Economist top five social business leader. At what point did you begin to get recognized in the industry with all these awards?

No one gets out of bed in the morning trying to win awards so when you do it’s a nice treat and surprise. The first one happened in 2004 when I was a young CIO at GMAC. My team was getting recognized by Computer World and Info World at that time for some really great technology we were bringing to bear. As I reflect on those days it really wasn’t about the technology. Our team was enjoying enormous success with driving team member adoption for the technology and it really transformed our business. I’m really big on self-reflection and recognizing patterns that work and many of the things that my team pioneered on business transformation at the time really became the blueprint for my CIO career.

Can you tell me more about your book People Before Things and what messages you want it to deliver? 

There’s a growing narrative of negative stories related to change and innovation. Gallup as an example reports that 70% of change initiatives fail and the U.S economy loses up to 150 billion dollars a year because of failed IT projects and when you think about that that’s staggering.

For me I was so obsessed with this during my IT career as a CIO in particular. I worked for so many companies that were enamored with the shiny new object and what tech could bring to the business that it seemed like those dreams were falling short for so many organizations. As I really focused on the issue one thing became abundantly clear to me, especially after speaking with project managers and having thousands of hours of conversations with them. It was really clear that change isn’t an end user problem, it’s a leadership opportunity.

So I’m really passionate about this because there are many hard working, dedicated IT people that are being hurt when change doesn’t go well.

We also read everywhere about the dreaded disruptive change. Why do people resist and fear change so much?

First I’d say that people rarely resist change as we think about the word resist. What I mean by that is I’ve never really met anyone brazen enough to walk into my office when I was an executive and just outright reject or refuse to accept a change. That said I’d say that resistance typically looks like apathy. People just don’t do much to help change along and that’s how they resist it.

When talking about change management what are the skills and techniques that are essential to success?

I do believe there are seven conditions that leaders need to provide to be successful with change and I go through those details in the book. It’s probably hard to go through them with our time today but what I would point people to is really just the outcomes of the seven conditions. What are we trying to accomplish? What I believe is at the end of the day people don’t accept change for one of three reasons.

  1. Do they know? They can’t accept it if they don’t know about it.
  2. Do they understand? Do they have the skills to handle the change?
  3. Do they care? Sometimes at the end of the day they just don’t care about this change.

What’s next for you?

I’m writing the next book now; it should be out in January, tentatively titled The Assumed Promise. It’s all about what people really want from their leaders and that when people take leadership roles there’s an assumed promise that their team members are expecting that they have made when they step into those leadership roles.

More important than the next book is my consulting company People Before Things. We’ve been focused on helping leaders use the concepts from the first book to drive really important business transformation in their organizations.

What’s the best way to get a hold of you?

Our website is www.peoplebeforethings.co (not .com) You can find me on Twitter @CIOChris and our People Before Things on Facebook and our book is on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, 800-CIO-READ and Indybound.org

Please feel free to reach out to me at techblogwriter@outlook.com. This show is all about people as much as technology and I want to get your voice heard so why not send me a message now?

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